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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



Slow Chocolate Autopsy

by

Iain Sinclair
and
Dave McKean


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Slow Chocolate Autopsy



Title: Slow Chocolate Autopsy
Authors: Iain Sinclair and Dave McKean
Genre: Novel
Written: 1997
Length: 190 pages
Availability: Slow Chocolate Autopsy - UK
  • Incidents from the Notorious Career of Norton, Prisoner of London
  • Sinclair also states that "The Falconer, made during 1995 & 1996 by Chris Petit and Iain Sinclair can be considered as a sequence that runs parallel to the notorious career of Norton (as revealed in this book)."

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Our Assessment:

C : Timeless London-bound Norton is interesting but ultimately not truly captivating

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian A 8/8/1998 Carrie O'Grady
The Sunday Times B- 23/8/1998 Trevor Lewis
The Times B 1/8/1998 James Eve
TLS . 21/11/1997 Phil Baker

  Review Consensus:

  Fascinating, raw, a dark paean to London -- but one senses the critics feel obligated to like it.


  From the Reviews:
  • "Who needs the strictures of format when Sinclair's prose is so fluid and quick?" - Carrie O'Grady, The Guardian

  • "Backed by McKean's equally dislocated and unsettling graphics, the author walks a fine line between strikingly lopsided lyricism and, to use his own phrase, "ranting like a decommissioned poet." " - Trevor Lewis, The Sunday Times

  • "(T)he book successfully explores the seamy side of the city, although Sinclair and McKean occasionally resort to pretentious characterisation." - James Eve, The Times

  • "It is a collection of stories, loosely linked by a shape-shifting character named Norton, which continue Sinclair's idiosyncratic exploration of London's underbelly. () The Junkie matrix and its character-as-found-object have the air of a contrived collage, or a ludic overwrite to no great purpose. Sinclair now seems well on the way to becoming a Living Cultural Treasure, like those elderly Japanese potters, but Slow Chocolate Autopsy is not his most impressive book." - Phil Baker, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Well, we really like the title, and it is certainly a very attractive book.
       Twelve episodes from the life of notorious Norton are related, nine in the form of stories by Sinclair, three in the form of graphically illustrated narratives, created by Dave McKean. Norton is literally a prisoner of London, bound to it, unable to move beyond its borders. But he is not tied to any time, and he travels through past and present. Among the episodes he participates in (in most varied form) is Marlowe's Deptford death, the Ripper murders (of course), as well as more recent events that have, in one way or another, shaped London.
       "He wants to describe the city by logging the contour lines of culture," Sinclair writes of Norton. It is an exercise Sinclair has tried before -- with greater success, we suggest. The dense style, and the vast reach of the novel, seem to leave Norton overextended. Sinclair tries to do too much with him, and while there are moments that come off marvelously the overall effect is diminished.
       McKean's contribution is interesting -- appealing, striking even -- but does little for the narrative as a whole. It is however, in McKean's graphic sections that the interesting questions are raised: "Who needs a writer ?" is certainly one of them. Elsewhere there is the call: "Wanted: interpreter. Unedited city." And the recurring Peter Pytchley is an interesting idea: "his spiritual twin, his fetch, broke free. (.....) To assume another identity: as pure fiction."
       Both men are talented, and when Sinclair finds an image -- such as the description that gives the book its title -- his writing can take your breath away. Unfortunately consistency is missing in this strange volume.
       As a whole the book is perhaps most interesting as a gloss on Sinclair's previous efforts, another light shining on those shadows. Moving too far into abstraction his style here lets him down, no longer carrying the weight it does in his more carefully developed fictions and documentaries.

       Note that Sinclair also states that the movie The Falconer, which he made with Chris Petit, can be considered a sequence running parallel to this novel.

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Links:

Iain Sinclair: Dave McKean: Other books by Iain Sinclair under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Contemporary British fiction under review

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About the Author:

       London author Iain Sinclair has written several collections of poetry, as well as a number of novels and documentary works.

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