Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Iain Sinclair Takes a Familiar Road; Books

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Iain Sinclair Takes a Familiar Road; Books

Article excerpt


DINING ON STONES by Iain Sinclair (Hamish Hamilton, [pounds sterling]16.99)

THE narrator of this book, or of some of it, Andrew Norton, has appeared before in Sinclair's fiction. So have the concerns, style, and mood.

As the character called "Bad news" puts it to him in Landor's Tower: Your books, man ... no ****er can tell them apart ...

One: lowlifes running around, getting nowhere. Two: a baggy central section investigating 'place' ... Three: quelle surprise.

A walk in the wilderness. What a copout."

Sinclair may not have followed his own prescription to the letter this time but he's near enough for us to feel cheated. And I too am beginning to find it hard to tell them apart.

The curious thing is that while everyone acknowledges this quality, no one has a bad word to say about him. He is called visionary, oracular, and, er, "compulsively sprawling".

I have reviewed enough of his books to have lost count by now, and I have said pretty much the same thing. His last book I particularly liked: London Orbital, about a (non-fictional) walking tour of the M25, which I followed, slightly insanely, with the large version of the A-Z.

But now ... I've had enough.

Really. It hardly needs to be explained why. Andrew Norton, a writer and ex-antiquarian book dealer, whom we may wish to confuse with Sinclair himself, decides to walk down ... hmm, which road hasn't Sinclair/his fictional alter egos walked down yet? The A13.

Well, fair dos, everyone knows what we're in for. Sordid locales, some gangsters, artists operating on the margins of charlatanism, interesting female companions, Jack the Ripper victims, serendipitous literary connections. Follow the estuary and you can make psychogeographical connections between Joseph Conrad, TS Eliot, and Bram Stoker.

At one point, Norton is disturbed to discover, in an unpublished manuscript, a reference to a pristine first edition of Dracula discovered in Grays Thurrock, an event from his own life. …

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