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Monday, July 31, 2017

Downriver (1991) by Iain Sinclair

Image result for psychogeography
This diagram gives a rough depiction of the elements of pyschogeography.
Book Review
Downriver (1991)
 by Iain Sinclair

   Iain Sinclar is best known for his affiliation with the "pyscho-geography" movement.  Psychogeography is an off-shoot of the Guy Debord created Situationist International movement, which also played a big role in other 20th century subcultures, like, for example, Punk and pretty much any late 20th century art movement that includes surrealist or dadaist aspects.  The idea of psycho-geography is to look at the impact that place has on the development of individuals, and as it is expressed by authors like Iain Sinclair, it dovetails nicely with post-modernist trends in literature.

   Downriver takes place in a slightly askew version of Thatcherite London, in various locations "downriver," the city being London, the river being the Thames and the places being in East London and environs.   I couldn't piece together much of a plot- although I read elsewhere that it was supposed to be about a documentary film crew making a feature about "vanishing London" in the "Thatcher era."    The highlights are individual episodes- particularly the Isle of Doges, where the Vatican has taken over the East London Isle of Dogs, "largely for tax purposes," and a gang infiltrates the drainage system to witness a spectacularly evil ritual.

  William Gibson has called Sinclair his favorite author, and it is hard to not think of one while reading the other.  Sinclair's prose is dense and very geographically specific- I found myself making a Google Map of the locations he mentioned and looking at the actual places, and their spatial relationship to the other places in the book, as I went along.

  I would highly recommend Downriver- I know from looking at the page views of this blog that this is the sort of book the people who read this blog would be interested in reading.

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