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London: city of disappearances by Iain…

London: city of disappearances (2006)

by Iain Sinclair

Other authors: Jonathan Meades (Contributor)

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I found this book somewhat frustrating on a number of fronts, not least because I felt that for someone it would be a wonderful book but that someone is not me. Iain Sinclair has a very particular style and approach in all his work, and this book is very Sinclair. I wanted to like it. It sounded fascinating in the introduction, but I soon became frustrated by the very layout of the book. The names of the fifty-nine 'contributors' (I'm not sure that Thomas De Quincy could properly be regarded as a contributor) appear in a block at the beginning of the book. The names run into one another with no gaps between names or initials, the only indication of the end of one person's name and the beginning of the next being that surnames appear in capital letters. The book is divided into twelve segments each of which is made up of a number of pieces by different writers but although each piece has a title the index does not list them. There are notes on contributors towards the back of the book (De Quincy is omitted - disappeared?) and finally a list of contributors appears in conventional form at the end of the book, with page numbers for their contributions. Where the contributions appear within the segments the piece starts with a title, but no author attribution until it ends. In fairness probably many anthologies are laid out like this without causing any difficulty, but in this book I wanted to know whose voice I was hearing, so for each piece I would have to go rummaging through the book to find its end and the author's name. I think it mattered to me for this book because it was set up that it would include fact and fiction, and what people remembered as fact, though others approached might remember it differently. Sometimes someone mentioned in one piece is the author of the next. It seems to me that one should know that in advance.

I gave up on the book partway through the first section, West End Final. It's a big book, over six hundred pages, and though I feel certain that I have missed some interesting stuff the commitment of time required was too great for something I was really only reading as a curiosity when I have a large stack of books that I really want to read. Of what I did read, the editing is clever as one piece leads into the next, but the book would be best read by someone with a substantial knowledge of the London fringe/underground culture of the mid twentieth century, as many of its places and people feature here. There are the Fulcrum Press poets, Better Books, Indica, the Raymond Revue Bar, the whole strange but not uncommon mix of art and criminality round the fringes. Many of the names and places were familiar to me, many were not. I think the book could be read as it stands but to be properly appreciated one would really need to know the people involved. I see that later sections of the book include fiction, poetry, and archive news reports, but with regret I am passing them up and passing the book back to the charity shop from whence it came.
  Oandthegang | Nov 10, 2015 |
An anthology of fragments and glimpses befitting it's subject. Sinclair has collected myriad prose which captures the London I live in-- a place of ghosts, absences and markers of what might have been.

Worth reading for De Quincey's ode to his first opium dealer: "The Disappeared Pharmacist."
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  allyshaw | Apr 4, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Iain Sinclairprimary authorall editionscalculated
Meades, JonathanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Looking for someone is, as psychologists have observed, perceptually peculiar, in that the world is suddenly organized as a basis upon which the absence of what is sought is bodied forth in a ghostly manner. The familiar streets about my house, never fully to recover from the haunting, were filled with non-apparitions.

Iris Murdoch
You don't disappear, you reappear, dead.

Ed Dorn
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London is a city of disappearances and fallible memories. Alongside the contemporary city, of noise and celebrity, is that other city - of the dead, the unvoiced, the erased. This text brings to light the fugitive scraps, ragpicker's bundles, faded newspaper cuttings and patterns in the dust.… (more)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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