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.