Sinclair’s Ring cycle

Posted on 05/03/04 | in people, places

At last the chance to rhapsodise about Iain Sinclair’s London Orbital. I love some of his earlier books (although the one novel I read was largely incomprehensible to me at the time), but this one works so much better (not that I’ve quite finished yet). It’s Last of the Summer Wine scripted by Edgar Allan Poe; it’s the Dark Side of Fatty Ackroyd.

(I haven’t done any of this kind of lunatic perambulation for a while now – alas my fellow fugueurs now live elsewhere or have babies – and I damn well miss it.)

Only 10 pages left to go now – he’s certainly rushing the last bit. Which is just as well, because most of it is about nasty Essex people chopping each other up and distributing the bits.

But the best bit for me, the most elegiac of all, was in the grounds of the erstwhile Joyce Green Hospital near Dartford, and with the old codgers wandering around the mud and salt flats. What made it particularly spectacular was that I read it in the great hall of Imperial College while H and the rest of the choir sang Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius at me (and several hundred others) – perfect combination. Great concert, and something of an elegy for H, too, as it was the last one she’ll do for that particular kwa.

I think there’s a lot more subtlety in Sinclair’s tone in this book: he’s still very good at invective, but it’s always tempered with a sort of metallic nostalgia. And although he hardly rhapsodises about the grey hinterlands that are being lost to developers, the whole thing is nevertheless pervaded with this sense of loss, and it’s quietly moving to read of all these brutal sanitoria being transmuted into clocktowered Crest estates and all the rest of it. Corking stuff.

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