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Monday, June 04, 2018

Dining on Stones (2004) by Iain Sinclair

Book Review
Dining on Stones (2004)
 by Iain Sinclair

  Psychogeography would probably be more popular in the United States if it had been developed by writers in New York and Los Angeles.  As it is, the Paris and London roots of this contemporary socio-literary movement doom it to a struggle for relevance in the reading rooms of American audiences.    Even worse, most of the London based psychogeography is focused on East London, which, if it means anything to most American readers, brings associations of cockney speaking gangsters.   Iain Sinclair, one of the foremost proponents of psycho geography, is very focused on East London.  In Dining on Stones he moves down the river to the coast, East Sussex, specifically, where his avatar-narrator follows in the footsteps of Joseph Conrad, who famously, and tortuously, wrote Nostromo here.

   To quote the Guardian review, Dining on Stones is, "pretty free of plot, if not story."   Almost all the book is not-quite-stream of consciousness, with frequent interpositions of pop culture references and literary criticism, mostly focused on the aforementioned Conrad and psychogeography fellow traveler J.G. Ballard.   One of the principles I've synthesized out of the psychogeographical texts I've read is attention to the ignored spots in the landscape:  Let's have a paragraph about the detritus on the side of a motorway, or the pattern of stains in the parking lot of a petrol station.   This attention to the ignored isn't solely the province of psychogeographical writers- I can think of a half dozen photographers with work stretching back a half century who have made careers out of these kind of places- starting with Robert Frank, and attention to place is a frequent feature of succesful literary fiction, but not in the way that Sinclair and his fellows pay attention to place- not the same places.


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