Synopses & Reviews
Winner of the 2012 PEN Ackerley Prize
Duncan Fallowell sets out to odd corners of the world in pursuit of some extraordinary and improbable characters who were in most cases momentarily famous—or infamous—and then simply disappeared. The first to disappear is the author himself—to a ghostly hotel on a Mediterranean island. His subjects, though unmet or hardly met, live for the reader with remarkable vividness, such as the German artist who bought a large island in the Hebrides and vanished immediately afterward, to the astonishment of its inhabitants. Fallowell tracks down the recluse who inspired Evelyn Waugh's creation Sebastian Flyte, the legendary love object of Waugh's novel Brideshead Revisited, who wants both to forget the past and to cling to it. He even pursues the ultimate disappearance—the death of Princess Diana—and the miasma of shock, wonder, and grief that followed, writing "Mystification is absolutely essential to our feeling of being alive." In these highly original adventures, How to Disappear winds through the eerie abyss that can open up between someone—or something—being both real and phantom.
"A strange and wonderful book. Fallowell is a marvelous raconteur who seems incapable of writing a dull sentence."—James Magruder, author of Sugarless
"Polished jewels of consciousness, presented with this author's trademark mixture of profundity, wit and joyful naughtiness. They drink the elixir of loss, though with an eye fixed on the horizon."—Christopher Silvester, Daily Express
“A subtle, beautifully written, and often very funny example of autobiography by stealth. . . . [Fallowell's] account of Diana's funeral is far better than any other you will have read in what has become an overcrowded field.”—Peter Parker, citation for the 2012 PEN/Ackerley Prize winner
“Carl Djerassi can write knowledgeably and wittily not only about scientists, but also about smart, competitive, obsessive people from many other walks of life.”—David Lodge, author of Changing Places and A Man of Parts
“One of the pleasures of Carl Djerassi’s witty, richly detailed stories is that they have the rare merit of letting us look into some special works—art, science—that are usually closed to writers who are only writers. The pen of the trained observer is as acute as his eye.”—Diane Johnson, author of L’Affaire
“These stories describe abstract conflicts, jockeying for prestige, or social interactions seen as complexes of negotiation, and the pleasure they give is akin to that of being taken through a skillful game of chess by an explicitly authoritative commentator.”—Colin Greenland, Times Literary Supplement
“This was a meal which, the more I ate, the hungrier I became. . . . The stories are attitudinal and intellectual, even instructive. They bring the reader into the culture and ‘cultivated taste’ of the sophisticated, worldly, even jaunty Djerassi: upper-crust Brits, opera, food, art, money, and sex (and sex and sex). . . . These stories are sophisticated fun.”—Jeffrey I. Seeman, Chemical & Engineering News
“In five dated yet beautifully crafted essays, Fallowell . . . mines some early trips he took for literary inspiration. . . . A delicious throwback memoir, writerly and rich.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Extremely readable, How to Disappear
. . . works as a travel book, a nonfiction detective story and a self-help exploration of what it means to be a misfit. Fallowell presents a collection accessible on different levels.”—Lambda Literary Foundation
Carl Djerassi crafts a shrewd collection of comedies of manners, exposing the foibles of elite tribes—business executives, chefs, scientists, professors, musicians, and other clever characters. They spar in battles of one-upmanship using class, education, gender, or prestige as their weapons, sometimes leaving damaged bystanders in their wake but sometimes finding their superiority deflated by unexpected turns of events.
About the Author
Carl Djerassi (1923–2015) was the author of many novels, plays, essays, poetry, and short stories published in twenty languages. Renowned as both a writer and a scientist, he was an emeritus professor of chemistry at Stanford University and the recipient of thirty honorary doctorates as well as many international scientific honors. His books published by the University of Wisconsin Press are: How I Beat Coca-Cola and Other Tales of One-Upmanship
; Foreplay: Hannah Arendt, the Two Adornos, and Walter Benjamin
; Sex in an Age of Technological Reproduction:? "ICSI" and "Taboos"
; and A Diary of Pique 1983–1984
/ Ein Tagebuch des Grolls 1983–1984
Table of Contents
Preface How I Beat Coca-Cola The Dacriologist Castor's Dilemma Sleight of Mind Maskenfreiheit First-Class Nun Noblesse Oblige The Psomophile The Glyndebourne Heist The Futurist What's Tatyana Troyanos Doing in Spartacus's Tent? The Toyota Cantos