The Fall of Kelvin Walker by Alasdair Gray – 20 Books of Summer

The Fall of Kelvin Walker by the Scottish author Alasdair Gray was first published by Canongate Publishing in 1985. It’s a very short read at just 140 pages. It’s one of my 20 Books of Summer.

Kelvin Walker has left his home town of Glaik, a bit of a rural backwater, for the bright lights of swinging London of the 1960s. He’s determined to make a success of his life in double quick time, despite having no qualifications, he has only worked in his father’s shop since the age of 15. He had discovered the local library in Glaik and had been impressed with Nietsche who had released him from his fear of God as he didn’t exist, an entity that Kelvin felt had watched his every move, just as his father did.

Kelvin plans to pretend that he is Hector McKellar, the one person from Glaik who has become famous, he works in television. He hopes that the name will get him interviews and that he’ll be able to blag his way into a well-paid position.

Kelvin has terrific confidence in his abilities, but he quickly realises that life in London is very alien to anything he has experienced before. He’s saved from having to sleep on a park bench by a young woman who takes him back to the room that she shares with her boyfriend who is an artist. They’re bemused by Kelvin’s plans, he just doesn’t know how things work, but Kelvin is undaunted.

I’ve read a few books by Gray over the years, this is the one that I’ve enjoyed most, it’s described as being Calvinist slapstick. If you add the letters ‘it’ to Glaik you get the Scots word glaikit which means idiot, foolish.

The blurb on the back says:

‘The first major Scottish writer since Walter Scott’ – Anthony Burgess

‘Gray’s work is bawdy and exuberant. Here is an original and talented writer plainly in his prime’ – Robert Nye in the Guardian.







4 thoughts on “The Fall of Kelvin Walker by Alasdair Gray – 20 Books of Summer

  1. “Bawdy and exuberant” are not really your thing or mine but there is something appealing about people trying to reinvent themselves.

    The cover, however, reminds me of the rule when my parents were at university – on the few occasions when the opposite sex were allowed in the dormitories (usually from 12-2), there always had to be three feet on the floor! I think the door was also supposed to be open!

    What else do you have in store for your 20 Books of Summer? These two seem somewhat obscure.

    • Constance,
      Those leg rules sound just like the ones they had in Hollywood at one point! It’s that word ‘dormitory’ which shocks me though as students here have their own room and share a kitchen and bathrooms. I decided to read the Alasdair Gray book as he died not that long ago, he was well known within Scotland.
      I’ve read five of my 20 Books of Summer but have yet to review them all, or link to those I have reviewed. It’s an eclectic list I think.

  2. Katrina,
    OH! The book cover made me laugh out loud! What clever graphics! Too funny!
    And I love that his name is Kelvin, when combined with all his other considerable attributes. (!)
    What a find, Katrina!
    And how I love Anthony Burgess’s acclaim on the back cover! Too Perfect!

    • Judith,
      It is funny. I had to check to see if Alasdair Gray had designed it himself as he was quite a talented artist, but it was apparently done by someone called Mark Entwisle. This book has been in our house for decades, read by Jack back when it was first published. It has taken me quite some time to get around to it! Kelvin is the name of the river which flows close to Glasgow Uni at Kelvinbridge in Glasgow’s west end.

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