Advantages Very interesting
Disadvantages Obscure/ boring in parts
Iain Sinclair started as a poet in the London avant-garde fringe in the 1960s and 1970s. A fruitful period as a second-hand book dealer paid his bills before he became famous for his essays and novels such as 'Lud Heat', 'Suicide Bridge', 'White Chapell, Scarlet Tracings', 'Downriver', and 'Radon Daughters'. All his work but most explicitly his essays combine a unique take on psychogeography* with his literary interests, including 'British noir' books and films. More recently he has described travels on foot around celebrated/notorious routes eg 'Liquid City', 'London Orbital' (a reflective narrative tour of the M25), and 'Dining on Stones' (a similar tour along the A13). 'Edge of the Orison' is the latest in this series of highly unconventional tours.
Relatively little known poet, 1793 - 1864, son of farm labourers in rural Northamptonshire, partly educated, and later fêted for his prose and poetry. Clare's work was distinguished by his use of Northamptonshire dialect and phrases, and his refusal to obey the increasing contemporary standardisation of punctuation and spelling. Childhood malnutrition left him physically vulnerable and later he suffered from an unspecified mental illness, which at that time was barely diagnosable, let alone treatable. Sinclair contributes to existing speculation as to whether Clare's experience of the London literary scene contributed to his breakdown, unfamiliar as he was with the clamour and stews of a large city. Upon his return from London, Clare was eventually admitted to the Northampton asylum. You don't need to know or enjoy Clare to find this book interesting. It's probably a must for his fans, though hardly a conventional biography. Sinclair's interest in Clare extends to making his own transcription from Clare's original manuscripts in the Northampton public library (there is some debate about copyright).
As usual Sinclair teams up with chums Renchi, poet/ascetic, and filmmaker Chris Petit. The latter was responsible for the sublime 'Radio On' and disappointing 'Unsuitable Job for a Woman'.
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Pages: 400, Hardcover, Hamish Hamilton Ltd
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