Who is Andy Kirkpatrcik? I thought I knew, I certainly once knew, but now I am absolutly sure I don't. Is this a good thing? Yes it is, he is not a climber any longer, but a very good crafty writer. Maybe I should rephrase that because his razor like prose and acid sharp remarks should really drag out some precision from me. So, he was once a fairly rubbish chubby climber who literally dragged himself up by his boot laces to being an accomplished aid climber (and not to denigrate that substrata of climbing too much) he did in all that pounding of metal into defenceless rock, seems to have found himself as a real adventurer with some astounding stuff under his belt, that isn't just "smelly cod from Hull". Why the reference to smelly stuff from Hull? Well Andy's beatification is a tortuous one, from a lowly impoverished housing estate in one England's finest forgotten deprived areas, he some how arose to being a very funny guy with lots of social insight and very popular to boot. But obviously his journey has marks, if not scars, he did badly at school etc how one asks can some one with such a talent for drawing be regarded as sub normal shows the mistakes that the UK system is stuffed with. His vehicle was climbing. Fighting dyslexia, and a lack of true climbing ability he triumphed against all odds and did some very fine climbs. Its like a rags to riches tale and very exciting. Am I joking? No I am not. How does his book score? 9 out of 10 for me and for like minded people, but please take a brain, he has pointed this book and these discourses at the high brows.
One of the very fine bits of art work by Andy Kirkpatrick in his own wonderful book, its an opening of a page, it is almost like being at an autopsy and discovering inner workings, workings of a fine mind.
If you want another review of this book you can have a much wordier and more polished one from Denis Gray in the web site One for the Crow. He points out that many fine climbers emanated from the Hull area, but really this is silly. Comparing Kirkparick to Redhead, or Dirty Alex Mac, or even suggesting that there might be something in those dark waters which might after distillation produce climbing excellence or writing ability would be racism. Which brings me to an interesting point, Andy talks politics, perhaps not my kind, but very interesting and as Denis the Menace points out left him rethinking some of his stances. This political content and sometimes anti liberal view point is what has brought some criticism of Andy recently. I think some people, Andy included would say he is poking fun at correct received liberal thinking, AKA Political correctness, I might after a few drinks be on the authors side so put me down for some of that finger waving. It is for you to make the call, I for one would defend his right to speak, and I did find myself listening, not all the time and certainly not on the diatribe on abortion.
Andy's book Psychovertical was an immensely good book and rightly won much praise, but Unknown Pleasures is much better, its more raw, less ingenuously about climbing and more about what we all are- self absorbed. But again is this compliment, or spite? It's a compliment, read the book you will get much pleasure, his illustrations are worth it by themselves, but it his written self portraits through 50 % of the chapters that is truly interesting.