Tuesday, November 10, 2009


It's supposed to be a book review of Peter Ackroyd's Thames: Sacred River but like some sort of demented secant to London Orbital Iain Sinclair turns it into a walking pilgrimage to the London Stone near the village of Grain.

London Stone photograph copyright © Roger W Haworth and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

I get the feeling I wouldn't like Ackroyd's book, but in the best tradition of LRB reviews Sinclair hardly mentions the work he is purportedly reviewing and, abusing his editor's good nature, wanders off into another variation on the many exhaustive explorations he has spent most of his life making from his base in Hackney. As on all good quests he encounters many obstacles on the journey and despite all his best efforts it looks like he will be thwarted at the last, only for a courageous sidekick to help save the day.

Like Sinclair I have always had a fascination for the marginal, (sub)liminal areas of civilisation and the landscape downriver of London, around the mouth of the Thames has always seemed particularly interesting because of its closeness but complete dislocation to the capital. Kingsnorth, Sheerness, Canvey Island, the empty stretches of Isle of Sheppey exert a peculiar attraction and I wish I had taken the time to explore when I had the chance ...

If you haven't crossed paths with him before then I can heartily recommend it as an excellent introduction to Sinclair's obsessions and writings. London Orbital is one of my favourite books of the year so far (longer review to come soon) and if your interest is piqued by the
LRB article you should give the epic version a try.

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