~E-PUB ♞ Downriver ♍ Downriver Is A Brilliant London Novel By Its Foremost Chronicler, Iain SinclairWINNER OF THE ENCORE AWARD AND THE JAMES TAIT BLACK MEMORIAL PRIZEThe Thames Runs Through Downriver Like An Open Wound, Draining The Pain And Filth Of London And Its Mercurial Inhabitants Commissioned To Document The Shifting Embankments Of Industry And Rampant Property Speculation, A Film Crew Of Magpie Scavengers, High Rent Lowlife, Broken Criminals And Reborn Lunatics Picks Over The Rivers Detritus They Examine The Wound, Hoping To Expose The Cause Of The City S Affliction Remarkable Part Apocalyptic Documentary, Part Moth Eaten Ghost Story, Part Detective Story Inventive And Stylish, Sinclair Is One Of The Most Interesting Of Contemporary Novelists Sunday Times One Of Those Idiosyncratic Literary Texts That Revivify The Language, So Darn Quotable As To Be The Reader S Delight And The Reviewer S Nightmare Guardian Crazy, Dangerous, Prophetic Angela CarterIain Sinclair Is The Author Of Downriver Winner Of The James Tait Black Memorial Prize And The Encore Award Landor S Tower White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings Lights Out For The Territory Lud Heat Rodinsky S Room With Rachel Lichtenstein Radon DaughtersLondon Orbital, Dining On Stones , Hackney, That Rose Red Empire And Ghost Milk He Is Also The Editor Of London City Of Disappearances
Imagine if the opening prose poem of Suttree went on for over 400 pages, rather than quickly yielding to a novel with characters who are continuous over time That s sort of what this book is like Sort of, but not exactly I confess I found huge chunks to basically be gibberish It may help if you come to it already familiar with the psychogeography of London personally I ve only been to the Big Smoke once, briefly, during the day Much of the content here simply went over my head Still, impossible to deny moments of profane illuminationA hallucinatory love song to a suppurating whore.I earn my keep here in San Francisco by giving tours, but then do I really have it in me to love this horrifying place the way that Iain Sinclair loves London Doubtful, I d say, very doubtful There is no monument to civilization that is not at the same time a monument of barbarism, and nowhere is this true than at the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park Things had improved my guardian, and familiar, had lost his collar but not the weals that reminded him of its once irritant presence The cur waited at the head of the stairs, hieratic, dribbling in the dirt, posed for me to appreciate its startling defect it had no eyes I do not mean that it was blind, or that its eyes had been gouged out by handlers preparing it for some specialized dogfight Coarse hair covered the place where the sockets should have been The skull was smooth as wood The animal had never possessed eyes, and did not appear to miss them.An answer the wrong one came to me, in response to Sabella Milditch s oracular riddle What is the opposite of a dog An Andalusian dog the encounter between two dreams Relatable content In San Francisco, I would say, the dogs are actually over civilized if I became mayor tomorrow I would make it illegal for all but the homeless to have dogs I d then be forced to have some grudging respect for the few yuppies willing to sleep outside rather than lose their canines I literally just googled nicknames for London. Downriver Or, The Vessels of Wrath sports a smoky frontispiece of a dozen curious black and white photographs one each of the twelve is subsequently attached to the opening page of the twelve narrative tales that subdivide the book These photos are of various locales in and around the Congo River at the turn of the previous century native blacks sport Western apparel West European merchant travelers take turns going native modernity and tribal primitivism warily circle each other, releasing strange and powerful currents and energies Behind and below it all the Congo river, a sinuous jungle black, winding serpent omnipresently looms along its steaming pathways rationality was introduced into equatorial darkness, but concurrently madness slithered its way through rational defenses and stirred the inky depths of the unknown Joseph Conrad, an explorer of the margins, haunted by the crepuscular Congo, probed the effects of this intermingling of the new with the ancient and how it unleashed horrors to accompany its wonders.Sinclair follows in the footsteps of his literary forebear some nine decades later, shifting the locale to late Thatcher England at the dawn of the nineties and focussing upon the Thames river in and around London a stretch which had undergone a whirlwind of change during the market marvelous eighties, tearing down long standing structures and neighborhoods to make way for temporary speculative sparkles dispossessing former residents to create a new indigent class that was shuffled around and away from shiny new and empty office towers and cocaine fueled entertainment districts Thatcherite England energy without soul in Sinclair s words sought to impose a new history overtop of centuries of established tradition and legend This superficial fa ade, hastily plastered and smoothed over, stirred up roiling clouds of ash and dust from a history demolished and the tidal ebb and flow of the shimmering Thames, lidless and sleepless, regulated the eternal watch the river kept upon this newest frantic and manic folly perpetrated by that always innovative and enterprising creature that so brashly dared its liquid demesne.Within a very loosely conjoining metafictional conceit of Sinclair roaming the Thames waterfront to capture narrative ideas for an always looming BBC documentary, this spectacularly imaginative London based Welshman has crafted a phantasmagoric, weird, disturbing, cryptic, and wildly, satirically funny masterpiece Thatcher labelled The Widow in these Wrathful vessels, a hairless, soulless market chief apparatchik and fluffer who is determined to refashion Britain into a redoubt of glittering, steely speculative frenzy, unrecognizable under its eternal makeover is the focal point from which flows the occult, nightmarish energies that have broken and rent the London districts surrounding the Thames waterfront As Sinclair has it, history has soaked into the buildings of the riverine metropolis, into the soil and nothing bears the ghosts and memories of forward marching time like the Thames indeed, its continually churning silt and mud dredges up phantoms and phantasms from the past with alarming regularity, intruding its keepsakes before Sinclair s riverbank ferreting the author narrator accompanied by a zany crew of artsy misfits and down on their luck rogues The concrete and grime waterfront, with its creepy, ocular deep water docks and intestinal pipelines is linked via the railway deregulated and privatized into a multitude of circular and ambulatory lines that crisscross the East London neighborhoods that haunt, and are haunted by, Sinclair and his Unmerry Men maze like warrens and open field transport all sloping downwards towards the bending liquid spine of the transfigured city The past blends seamlessly with the future into confounding and displacing the present the occult materializes from the commonplace in nightmarish vignettes, the river coughing up bloated, deformed bodies and spirits that unassumingly take part in driving Sinclair and Company to the very edges of madness a madness mirrored in the maelstrom of change and destruction enacted by the greedy moguls who hoover up the cash shaken out of broken buildings, relics, livelihoods and dreams This brilliantine apocalypse exists both in reality and within the paranoid, despairing sanatorium of Sinclair s febrile mind how much of the tale is the former, and how much the latter, can never quite be determined Each of the dozen episodes unwinds a new madness, a new sanguinary mystery or mystical disappearance in which the characters come to understand that history, as commonly understood, is as fictional as the wildest novel that what is held to be the truth depends far upon one s particular point of view, one s agenda, than on what actually occurred and that time cryptically links individuals separated through decades and centuries, that ripples from the past may have been set in motion to answer an urgent need or desperation from an occluded future We can become trapped within these bonded and created realities, unaware of how we are imprisoned and both desirous and terrified of the prospect of sudden and irrevocable change, of preconfigured coincidence.I absolutely loved this book however, I recommend it cautiously, as I can also understand that others would find it maddening and frustrating By the time I had finished, though still stunned and bedazzled by Sinclair s verbose brilliance, I was also becoming weary of the endless and exhausting authorial shenanigans, and could see how others might have been tempted to abandon ship long before Sinclair is also a poet, and it shows in the effortlessly beautiful style he wields He can shift from the comical to the sinister, from grim drudgery to luminous sublimity in a heartbeat and without any disturbance to the narrative flow in many ways, it reminded me of Gravity s Rainbow filtered through a mind attuned to symmetry than entropy The macabre intrusions of the occult, the flowering of dream and nightmare take place within the modern setting in a way that disjoints the reader and confuses what is the result of each character s madness with the mad ends and means of Britain s market enthusiasms An apocalyptic fever burns throughout the stories settling to a low hum in some, blazing forth in tempestuous insanity in others while Sinclair s narrator detective chases down the rendered actuality behind the lives of a sultry and provocative Canadian exotic dancer a transplanted aboriginal cricketeer a Rosicrucian fearing beggar the ghostly dead from a terrible century old Thames River collision a Norman knight slain by his murdered steed s vengeance bearing bones a pink capped English aristocrat s shell shocked destiny with paddle and wicket and window lowered basket a Vatican Mafia takeover and transformation of the Isle of Dogs into a guard towered magnet for penitents and anchorites a snail shell ard Wicker Man conjured forth by mound light pathways to do battle with the Widow s dead murdered consort s inflated Halicarnassian memorial and a crippled, destitute Jew whose life force dispersed into the molecular structure of his rented room above an abandoned synagogue Characters come and go, appear and re appear, some returning for a starring role, others fading away into left behind pages the connecting link is Sinclair, driven ever nearer the abyssal brink as he uncovers further evidence of the madness and delusion inherent in time s passage and fiction s conception and, always, the Thames The wending, arterial river, like its African counterpart, daily buries, afresh and anew, the bodies and creations of humankind, entraps these dampened spirits within the charcoal layers of grimy and grasping muck A voyage downriver can serve as a journey into the past but the traveler may not always gain from what he uncovers, let alone comprehend how the river never remains the same after you ve breached it the first time. Insane, bizarre, flowing nightmare of book Goes from bizarre reporting to freak out Blakeian visions as it documents London and its people The past, future, and the present flow freely into one another as Sinclair delivers his freak dream logic in some of the most visceral and strange prose being written today Fans of Burroughs, Moorcock, and Angela Carter find her review of it also need to find this exasperating but brilliant book. I am not sure what I feel about this book It was certainly beautifully written Sinclair has a mastery with words that I have seldom encountered before, and the book is peppered with astonishing metaphors He also has an extraordinary eye for landscape Early in the book one of the characters wanders through the wasteland around Tilbury Fort, which I had visited not long before Sinclair s description of it is startling in its vividness I can t remember ever reading an account of a location that so accurately captured both the physical features and the sheer squalor and despair that they provoked.I did, however, find reading the book quite a struggle The narrative moves haltingly, changing focus and narrator with each new section There are, in fact, several different stories interwoven with each other, each unfolding at a different pace Desperately clever, no doubt, yet also desperately irritating On balance, I felt that the glory of Sinclair s prose just outweighed the difficulties imposed by choice of format Perhaps I am simply too middle aged, middle class and middle brow properly to appreciate it, but I think my final judgement is that it was a shame that such beautiful prose was not better served by the story it told. This isn t a story, it s a journey The river is the Thames and the journey is through the psyche of the city the river bisects What does the Thames mean to London If you had to describe that meaning through fictional characters, who would they be and what would they do Sinclair is a psychogeographer he s interested in how cities affect the minds of the people who live in them Downriver is his attempt to capture the essence of London wharf life It s surrealist, captivating, inspiring, deeply disturbing If you read it at bedtime it will become contiguous with your dreams. Prose poetry, and not in a good way I couldn t make head nor bleedin tail of it, as one of Sinclair s own characters might say The majority of reviewers seem to think Downriver is some sort of stylistic tour de force, so maybe it simply went over my head Either way, there was nothing in the first hundred pages or so that gave me the slightest inclination to keep reading and I quickly abandoned it to flee back into the comforting arms of John le Carr. On the face of it, Sinclair s fiction doesn t seem too different from his nonfiction there s the same obsession with the gritty details of London, with every broken pub window, every spray of political graffiti, every needle in an alley mattering And likewise there s this almost too clever use of words, a sense of verbal mastery and an ability to sum up every one of these aforementioned gritty details with a witty, smirking turn of phrase So, much as I adored Sinclair s Lights Out for the Territory, I was equally charmed with Downriver. Has it really been 3 whole weeks since I finished this I still haven t returned it to the library, and every time I see its pleasing turquoise spine on the bookcase, I feel a fondness for it It s a maddening species of novel like thing, as the other reviews attest, gorgeously lyrical and so funny Unexpectedly so.There are books that annoy you with their dense allusions to people and places you ve never heard of Not this one, thick as it is Its page count is even longer if you count all the Wikipedia pages I perused in the meantime, catching up on neighbourhoods around the Thames, obscure historical figures and a variety of word wonders.I don t remember a damn thing about the plot Is that a selling point for you Jump in. With a prose style equal to anyone alive and a modern sensibility, it s tempting to call Iain Sinclair the William Faulker of London with this book But, considering his analytical mind which is also capable of mystic universalism, alongside the best deconstructive and reconstructive tendencies of the Situationists, it s best just to call him Iain Sinclair.