The Fall of Kelvin Walker: A Fable of the Sixties
The Fall of Kelvin Walker is a novel by Alasdair Gray. The book was adapted from Gray's earlier play of the same title. It was originally published by Canongate in 1985 and the revised text was published by Penguin Books in 1986.
Kelvin, freed from his strict Calvinist upbringing through discovering Nietzsche and 'the divine Ingersoll' in the library of his home town of Glaik, travels to swinging-sixties London to succeed as a television interviewer and newspaper columnist through nothing more than his aptitude for spin and a diabolical will to power, only to return, chastened, to Scotland and to God.
Drawing on a mixture of Scottish archetypes and British stereotypes and expressing all the author's cynicism towards religion, the media and the imperial British centre, this brief fable was reportedly inspired by Gray's own visit to London as a struggling artist to record a documentary called Under The Helmet (in which he tried to increase his sales by suggesting that he was dead).
The work received little critical attention. Stephen Bernstein's Alasdair Gray provides its most extensive reading, alongside its companion-piece McGrotty and Ludmilla. It is considered one of Gray's minor works. However Kelvin Walker did receive some praise from reviewers; as the Edinburgh Review put it;
- "If Kelvin Walker had been published when it was first written, it would have been an accomplished and distinctive debut."
Kelvin travels from his home town, Glaik which is located in Scotland, to swinging-sixties London. He escapes his strict Calvinist upbringing through discovering Nietzsche and the divine Ingersoll in the library of Glaik. In London, he had has no money, experience and education. He is a dropped out of school at the age of 15. He tries to get a job, but without these things it’s very difficult to get one. On a train in London, he meets a girl, Jill. He offers to take her out to the most expensive restaurant in London. But he has no clue about the prices in restaurants in London. The prices can get very high. When he gets the bill, he winds up borrowing money from Jill to pay the bill. Later, he moves in Jill’s untidy apartment. Also, Jill’s boyfriend named Jake, lives there. Kelvin rapidly comes between them. When he goes for an interview he lies about his identity and gets a job. He claims to be energetic, intelligent and integrity. Kelvin has a high opinion about himself. He eventually gets a job as a television interviewer and newspaper columnist. He becomes a successful interviewer. One day his father comes and says a lot of things to him which made that Kelvin realises his mistakes. At last, he returns to his home town, because that’s the place where oil is, and Edinburgh where capital is, and Glasgow where the television is. With his father’s support he took some evening classes and became a divinity doctor. Jack and Jill remained the same.