This book is a comprehensive critical introduction to one of the most original contemporary British writers, providing an overview of all of Iain Sinclair's major works and an analysis of his vision of modern London. It places Sinclair in a range of contexts, including: the late 1960s counter-culture and the British Poetry Revival; London's underground histories; the rise and fall of Thatcherism; and Sinclair's writing about Britain under New Labour and Sinclair's connection to other writers and artists, such as J.G. Ballard, Michael Moorcock and Marc Atkins. The book contributes to the growing scholarship surrounding Sinclair's work, covering in detail his poetry, fiction, non-fiction (including his book on John Clare, Edge of the Orison), and his film work. Using a generally chronological structure, it traces the on-going themes in Sinclair's writing, such as the uncovering of lost histories of London, the influence of visionary writings, and the importance of walking in the city, and more recent developments in his texts, such as the focus on spaces outside of London and his filmic collaborations with Chris Petit. The book provides a critically informed discussion of Sinclair's work using a variety of approaches.
This chapter introduces Iain Sinclair, who is a good example of the figure of the visionary outsider, and the author of known works such as Edge of the Orison and Lud Heat. It first presents a general description of Sinclair and his works, and then turns to his change of focus that corresponds to what has been called as the ‘spatial turn’ in social and critical theory. It shows that walking is Sinclair's practice of studying the spatial configurations modern life. Here, the chapter focuses on flâneur and the practice of ‘tactical’ walking.
This chapter examines the ‘British poetry revival’ that Sinclair was engaged in when he wrote and published Lud Heat and Suicide Bridge. It considers the importance of William Blake to Suicide Bridge, and examines the factors that were used to define the poetic practice of the British poetry revival poets. It then shows how Sinclair adopted Michael Faraday's conception of the field for the purposes of cultural and social critique, and how Sinclair included the fourth dimension—namely time—in the Suicide Bridge. Finally, it shows how Nicholas Hawksmoor helped Sinclair reimagine London and its myths, and discusses Sinclair's troubling and conflicted understanding of the workings of myth and the scientific metaphors he used in his works.
This chapter discusses the intense visual imagery that has become characteristic of Sinclair's poetry. It considers the visual apparatus of Sinclair's major works, including Slow Chocolate Autopsy. It also studies the importance of the cinematic and visual, the diagrammatic mapping of fictional texts, Sinclair's geometric conception of urban space, and the visual components of Sinclair's texts. This chapter also identifies the strategies Sinclair uses to improve the effects of the ‘semantic drag’, which is a retardation of the narrative and syntactic flow caused by the intensity of the individual sentence.
This chapter discusses the concept of internal exile, which can be found in Sinclair's 2005 non-fiction text, Edge of Orison. It studies the issues of marginalisation, suffering and exile that are addressed in Rodinsky's Room, Sinclair's collaborative text with Rachel Lichtenstein. These issues are also located in the history of the Jewish East End, a place that plays a special role in Sinclair's imagination of London. This chapter also studies his ‘democratic’ emphasis on walking the city. internal exile; Edge of Orison; marginalisation; suffering; exile; Rodinsky's Room; East End; walking the city
This chapter considers the way Sinclair addressed the sense of ‘decline’ that is characteristic of British society. It looks at his use of the ‘savage comedy’, Gothic overtones, and apocalyptic satire in order to study the matter of Britain, which indicates his rejection of collectivist politics. It examines his ‘open-field narratives’ in Downriver and the evident tension between agency and witness. It reveals that Downriver serves as an angry critique of Margaret Thatcher's policies and an ugly caricature of the prime minister as ‘the Widow’. This chapter also reviews the wider implications of Sinclair's small-press publication activities in the period between Suicide Bridge and White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings.
This chapter assesses the impact of the Millennium Dome, a structure that is believed to have been a part of an ideological project to negotiate the seeming fracture of a unified British ‘identity’. It introduces the ‘spectator of modernity’, which is the flâneur, who is able to take in the city as a totality, and a formulation that joins together with the subjectivity questioned by the modern nation-state. It then looks at Sinclair's move from the centre to the margins and his interest in studying the repressed, forgotten and suppressed. Finally, it shows how London is marked with histories of oppression and histories of resistance.
This chapter examines Sinclair's first novel, White Chappell. It shows that this novel drew upon the events of the autumn of 1888, namely the ‘Whitechapel Murders’ of Jack the Ripper, and even some popular literary novels (A Study in Scarlet and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde). From there the discussion focuses on the concept of temporal co-presence and multi-presence, and looks at how Sinclair uses the metaphysic of topographic presence to emphasize the mythic constructions of his narrative. This chapter also considers the ‘haunted’ nature of books and the dissection and division of human bodies.
This chapter discusses Sinclair's three novels, namely Dining on Stones, Landor's Tower and Radon Daughters. It notes that these three novels share structural similarities, motifs that have to do with roads and journeys are repeated, and the significance of narration and the narrator are centrally placed in the text. The discussion also determines that these three novels display an increasingly conscious appreciation of issues of gender and subjectivity.