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Iain Sinclair Doesn't Like... Things

By Greg Last edited 141 months ago
Iain Sinclair Doesn't Like... Things
GormleyPlanets.jpg

Londonist, as you may have noticed, loves Iain Sinclair. We loved the interview he gave us, and we found the thing he wrote in the Guardian after the July bombings to be really moving. So why does his essay in the most recent issue of the London Review of Books leave such a bad taste in our mouths?

It begins as an exploration of memorials to the war dead in London mainline train stations, but that project is abandoned after three stations, and in any case it seemed from the start to be a pretext for his usual psychogeography of the urban landscape. He approaches the task at moments as an intellectual and an expert (tossing off Blake quotations and Beatles biography) and at other moments as an absolute naïf (did he, in April, only just discover that Saint Pancras was closed?). He is unremittingly negative. The only things in his wanderings that he likes are things that are about to be destroyed. (As you also may have noticed, Londonist happens to believe that the modern urban landscape acutally has quite a bit going for it, for all its flaws.)

And then we reach this paragraph:

Given [Aidan] Dun’s poetic manifesto [Vale Royal, a book of poems about King's Cross], based on a reading of Blake, an interpretation of the pattern of hills and rivers, the events of 7 July can be seen as the inevitable consequence of our refusal to remember, our communal amnesia. Blake’s city of gold, its pillars aligned with London topography, has been wilfully set aside.

We freely admit that we don't fully understand this passage, but we know that "inevitable consequence" are strong words indeed.

We can say one thing for certain: when your essay appears in the same issue as a piece by Slavoj Zizek, it's quite a feat to come across as the more bewildering of the two.

Picture of Anthony Gormley's The Planets, which Sinclair seems not to like, borrowed from London Open University Geological Society, of all places.

Last Updated 19 August 2005

James

Ah, the end of August, thwack of leather on willow, the last thunderstorms of summer, the first cool breezes of Autumn, and Sinclair doomsaying in the LRB.

Come on Londonist: Sinclair isn't saying we actually deserved the bombings for sticking architectural carbuncles on London's Blakean face. But what he is saying (probably. maybe.) is that those who fail to see the patterns of beauty and horror in the minute scale all around us every day frequently misinterpret the bigger picture too, and this can have very, very bad consequences.

Greg

Thanks, James. I wasn't being coy about what he may or may not have been implying in that passage, or the whole thing -- I honestly just didn't get it. Your help is appreciated.

rsaum

I think the key is in the opening.. "Given Dun’s poetic manifesto,.." ie through the lense of Vale Royal. Later in the same §:
"He sees a repeated pattern of sacrifice deriving from our refusal to recognise the originating myths of this spurned site" (StPancras old church).

I bought a last copy of this from Compendium before it closed. I've tried to read it. It seemed a long hallucinatory night rambling full of arcane metaphor and obscure reference. Anything might be construed given a paragraph with such an opening. Nevertheless, Sinclair's comment is slightly insensitive. Ironically, he's also wrong (or too wrapped in his own virtuosity) - we many of us know of Dun, old StPancras, Blake's London, precisely through his eloquence. So he's guilty of unjustified pessimism as well.


Thanks for pointing out this article, which otherwise contains some fine writing.

Jesper Troelstrup

Having - like you - sometimes suspected, that IS maybe isnt too keen on anything new in the urban landscape, I was relieved to read his speech "How the Tames has shaped London" (http://www.london.gov.uk/assem... where he touches on some of the new elements he see as positive, as Tate Modern and the fact that a lot of new walks are opened along the river.

Regards Jesper

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