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ARTICLE: Al Alvarez - A Climbing Obituary

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 UKC Articles 01 Oct 2019
Mo Anthoine and Al Alvarez. Al Alvarez, poet, writer, critic, poker play – rock-climber, died peacefully on 23 September 2019 at his home in Hampstead. Anthony King is a close friend of Al's son, Luke, and was taught to climb by Al. Luke asked Anthony to write a climbing obituary for his father.

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 James Mann 01 Oct 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

Enjoyed this. Thanks. 

James

In reply to UKC Articles:

I was driving through Weymouth today, going to pick up my partner, feeling vaguely depressed, when Al Alvarez suddenly came to mind. I ached for a proper climbing obituary - and now here it is! Thank you so much. I wish I'd known him - just saw him that one time in the Lakes, going to do The Niche, in Borrowdale, too shy to say hello.

'...his eyes were always kind and a little sad.'

Mick

 Dominic Green 02 Oct 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

Thanks for this. I remember seeing him speak at Trinity in Dublin about 15 years ago, he was there to talk poetry rather than poker or climbing, it was that experience that persuaded me to read Feeding the Rat, which is such a great book.

pasbury 02 Oct 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

I didn't know Last Exit to Torquay was one of his - great climb.

In reply to pasbury:

Have never done it. Want to, now. Was it so entitled because of a then current court case for obscenity, re Last Exit to Brooklyn?

Mick

 legonaut 02 Oct 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

Thanks for this- great piece. I'd urge anyone with an interest in climbing literature to read his short portait of Mo Anthoine, "Feeding the rat". I think it's still the best piece on the motivations to climb  and explore that I've ever read. It's very funny in parts too.

 lorens holm 02 Oct 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

> Al Alvarez, poet, writer, critic, poker play – rock-climber, died peacefully on 23 September 2019 at his home in Hampstead. Anthony King is a close friend of Al's son, Luke, and was taught to climb by Al. Luke asked Anthony to write a climbing obituary for his father.

> Read more

I read Feeding the Rat when I was young. Antoine's adventures introduced me to the possibility of climbing at a larger scale in farther away places. More recently, I read The Savage God which was about the irresistible compulsion to suicide (Alvarez was a friend of Silvia Plath). I also read The New Poetry an anthology of postwar poetry which he edited. In his introduction to the work, he offered the most intelligent definition of psychosis as a social phenomenon that I know. Twentieth century social life is often referred to as psychotic. He was trying to describe a certain form of poetry, something about a form of poetry in which the refinement of the poet's craft - the word-craft, the metre, the geometry, whatever - encases a centre that can no longer hold because what it reflects in our culture can no longer hold. What a great mind, what a cool guy.

Post edited at 19:42
In reply to lorens holm:

Totally agree. It feels as though he chased things which are really important - and just didn't give a damn whether they were in vogue or not. I read these books at very different times in my life (also a climbing novel - 'Hers'?)  And his superb autobiography, 'Where Did It All Go Right'?

'What a great mind, what a cool guy.'  Absolutely.

Mick

In reply to Mick Ward:

That’s always been my understanding about why the route has that name. Great route, too.

Rik

 Offwidth 03 Oct 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

Am interesting insight about Al on Last Word on radio four this afternoon .

 Offwidth 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Christheclimber:

Beat me to it.

 cragrat 08 Oct 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

This is Al's appearance on Desert Island Discs:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0094b32

 acking 11 Oct 2019
In reply to James Mann:

Glad you enjoyed. We actually met cooling off our legs GL3 day 2, Grasmere!

 acking 11 Oct 2019
In reply to Mick Ward:

Glad you enjoyed it.

 acking 11 Oct 2019
In reply to Dominic Green:

Glad you enjoyed it.


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