Monday, August 31, 2009

book review - Lights Out for the Territory - Iain Sinclair

Having read London Orbital you pick up Lights Out for the Territory feeling in some respects it is a dry run for that book. The key personnel with Iain Sinclair writer and marc Atkins photographer are the same but the story is earlier and the landscape different.

Where London orbital was clearly about the M25 this books focuses on a triangle starting up in Hackney and moving down and across through the East End before arriving at Greenwich and finally Charlton.

Sinclair describes the aim of the book as a walking diary of reactions to the graffiti and messages that locals have left on the walls and signs along the route. In a pyschogeoghraphical sense these words should be influenced by the environment around them.

You start expecting a series of semi offensive and profound messages being recorded but quickly Sinclair moves the focus away from just what can be seen on the streets to what has happened to them in the past. There is a particular focus on literary and cinematic references.

The book is full of names and locations that give it a dizzying sense of depth. It is almost headache inducing how many things he manages to cram in. Each event leads to another with connections spinning out of a location like bike spokes. If the point is to prove that under each flagstone there is a story worth telling in London that is well made.

The problem with it is that is feels dated. The Kray's burial service was a long time ago and the area around the dome has changed significantly in the last few years. It was also easy to lose track of the narrative as Sinclair pushed everything he knew at you. That resulted in it being a difficult read in places and a narrative that didn’t really have a conclusion.

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