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Iain Sinclair
at the
complete review:


biographical | bibliography | quotes | pros/cons | our opinion | links


Biographical

Name: Iain SINCLAIR
Nationality: Great Britain
Born: 11 June 1943

  • Attended:
    • Trinity College, Dublin
    • Courtauld Institute
    • London School of Film Technique

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Bibliography

Highlighted titles are under review at the complete review

Please note that this bibliography is not necessarily complete.

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Quotes

What others have to
say about
Iain Sinclair:

  • "London is not just Sinclair's subject; it is his religion. His writing is like a bizarre cross between Betjeman and William Burroughs. Sinclair has inspired writers from Peter Ackroyd to Aidan Dun because he means what he writes, and what he writes is so beautifully unsettling." - Tobias Hill, The Guardian (19/11/1995)

  • "Anyone who cares about English prose cares about Iain Sinclair, a demented magus of the sentence. He is a bitter, slangy, rich precisionist who is flooded with impressions. (...) One does not have to believe Sinclair all the time. So purely is he a stylist that he returns prose to a state of decadence: that is to say, one can find Sinclair's mind limited, his leftish politics babyish, his taste for pulp writing tiresome, his occultism untrue, and forgive all of this because the prose, gorgeously amoral, is stronger than the world it inhabits. It consumes the world it inhabits." - James Wood, The Guardian (23/1/1997)

  • "Iain Sinclair is our greatest guide to London. He explores the mighty labyrinth on foot, from Canary Wharf to Hasidic Stamford Hill, mixing social surrealism with pavement-pounding satire." - Ian Thomson, The Spectator (8/2/1997)

  • "Sinclair is above all a phrasemaker" - Phil Baker, Times Literary Supplement (14/2/1997)

  • "As a Cambridge-educated Lord-Longford lookalike, who writes at his grandfather's desk, Sinclair is open to charges of slumming or nostalgie de la boue, but there is something more compulsive about his work than that; his prurient anxieties about low life have a fixated quality, like someone exposed to violence who spends the rest of his life consuming violent fictions with an uneasy, armoured pleasure." - Phil Baker, Times Literary Supplement (21/11/1997)

  • "I dig Lights Out and Sinclair's three novels, but I have to admit that's as much down to a High Lit aspirational weakness of mine and the fact that he digs "Bad Wisdom" as it's down to my true admiration of what he does. Even if I had never read a word of Lights Out for the Territory, I would tell people I loved the book. The title alone is enough to engender that love. " - Bill Drummond, Annual Report (1998)

  • "Sinclair instinctively examines everything afresh, rejecting orthodoxy and cultural consensus. He identifies with underdogs and outsiders. He works to conserve what is best in our culture with the idea that none of us, rich or poor, deserves to be disconnected from their past. (...) A wizard, Sinclair holds you fascinated while he conjures substance and revelation out of thick air." - Michael Moorcock, The Spectator (7/4/2001)

  • "(T)he sustained erudition of his voice is both wondrous to witness and cumulatively knackering." - Tim Adams, The Observer (8/4/2001)

  • "(F)or him, writing is essentially a performance art. It is primarily a performance of his elaborate, artificial and highly allusive style. Sinclair employs extravagant metaphors and conceits, vertigo-inducing catalogues and countless half-quotations. His words seem to dance around the characters and incidents that inspire them, and to mock them for being nothing more than the occasion for his virtuoso riffs. Sinclair's books are anthologies of aria-like asides, digressions that spiral like Baroque involutions, compilations of phrases that endlessly perpetuate and annotate themselves." - Thomas Wright, Daily Telegraph (23/4/2001)

  • "I hope Iain Sinclair finds more of an audience in America: He's an astonishingly original and entertaining writer." - Michael Dirda, The Washington Post (16/9/2001)

  • "Iain Sinclair's fiction belongs to a branch of literature that might be described as visionary. Crackpot might be another word." - James Ley, The Age (23/9/2001)

  • "No one writes like Iain Sinclair. First, there's the idiosyncrasy of his preoccupations, among which one might list obscure genre writers, the history and character of London, Jack the Ripper, draw-blood booksellers, leftist politics, the city's -- all of society's -- disenfranchised. Then there's his style, as gravid and confounding as Europe's ancient encrusted streets. Indeed, his sentences sweat and huff and fart with the meaning packed onto them. In Sinclair's hands, language simultaneously builds the world and consumes it." - James Sallis, Review of Contemporary Fiction (Spring 2002)

  • "Sinclair's passion is to allow his wonderful imagination to stumble over some of that past." - Tim Adams, The Observer (15/9/2002)

  • "Iain Sinclair is a heavy-duty version of Peter Ackroyd, a London visionary and crackling prose writer who veers between cheerful satire and apocalyptic horror." - Sinclair McKay, Daily Telegraph (28/9/2002)

  • "(I)tís easy to parody Sinclair. But isnít that true of all the best authors ? Heís distinctive, heís involving, heís unpredictable and he does make an enchanting guide to places you might otherwise never have dreamed of visiting." - James Delingpole, The Spectator (2/11/2002)

  • "Iain Sinclair makes a reader feel lucky to be fluent in English and undoubtedly makes translators despair. His prose reels from travel notes to social critique, from literary history to collegial caricature, lyrical reverie to satirical rant -- sometimes in a single paragraph." - Kenneth Baker, San Francisco Chronicle (26/1/2003)

  • "Where Ballard looks at the motorways as aesthetic markers of our group pathology, Sinclair peers under them, investigates the margins, wondering where the exits lead and who is buried in the foundations." - Michael Moorcock, The Guardian (1/5/2004)

  • "It is best to read Iain Sinclair's work out of the corner of your eye. The action takes place on the peripheries; it disintegrate if you concentrate too hard on the middle." - Caroline Maclean, London Review of Books (18/11/2004)

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Pros and Cons
of the author's work:

    Pros:
  • Erudite, literate, bookish
  • Knows the belly of the beast London better than anyone
  • Arcane and fascinating information littered throughout his work
  • Good ear for language and turn of a phrase

    Cons:
  • Goes on and on about events that many might not be equally fascinating to all
  • Obscure references everywhere
  • Focus on London, sixties and seventies lore, and Jack the Ripper can be mind-numbing
  • Writing is often very dense and jumps about a lot

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the complete review's Opinion

     London remains an ever popular subject for British authors, but few have tackled it as obsessively as Iain Sinclair. Apparently familiar with every nook and cranny of the city, wandering ceaselessly through its streets and backstreets, Sinclair is a great guide to a London most are not familiar with. It is the city that is the central character in almost all his books.
     Sinclair's obsession with the city fuels his books well -- but that does not make them everyone's cuppa. Not all readers want to see this seamy underside, or hear about the many forgotten souls -- though when Sinclair is in top form (such as in Downriver) the grand tapestries he unfolds before a reader's eyes are a wonder to behold.
     Much of the reading is tough going. Sinclair has become fairly prolific, without necessarily broadening his reach to justify so many words. All his books read in the dense and detailed style of the obsessive. He writes well, and in smaller doses he makes a grand impression (as in the near-perfect millennial rant, Sorry Meniscus). Too much at once, however, can be frustrating.
     We enjoy Sinclair's work, and we think he is an interesting character. We recommend his books -- though not too many at once -- and certainly everyone with any interest in London should be familiar with his take on the city. We hope he moves on in his work, but we will certainly follow it.

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Links

Iain Sinclair: Iain Sinclair's Books at the complete review: Other books of interest:

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