Sinclair and Alan Moore at the Cheltenham Science Festival in 2011
11 June 1943 |
Life and work
Sinclair was born in Cardiff, and educated at Trinity College, Dublin (where he edited Icarus). He attended the Courtauld Institute of Art (University of London), and the London School of Film Technique (now the London Film School).
His early work was mostly poetry, much of it published by his own small press, Albion Village Press. He was (and remains) closely connected with the British avant garde poetry scene of the 1960s and 1970s – authors such as Edward Dorn, J. H. Prynne, Douglas Oliver, Peter Ackroyd and Brian Catling are often quoted in his work and even turn up in fictionalized form as characters; later on, taking over from John Muckle, Sinclair edited the Paladin Poetry Series and, in 1996, the Picador anthology Conductors of Chaos.
His early books Lud Heat (1975) and Suicide Bridge (1979) were a mixture of essay, fiction and poetry; they were followed by White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings (1987), a novel juxtaposing the tale of a disreputable band of bookdealers on the hunt for a priceless copy of Arthur Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet and the Jack the Ripper murders (here attributed to the physician William Gull).
Sinclair was for some time perhaps best known for the novel Downriver (1991), which won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the 1992 Encore Award. It envisages the UK under the rule of the Widow, a grotesque version of Margaret Thatcher as viewed by her harshest critics, who supposedly establishes a one party state in a fifth term. Radon Daughters formed the third part of a trilogy with White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings and Downriver.
The volume of essays Lights Out for the Territory gained Sinclair a wider readership by treating the material of his novels in non-fiction form. His essay Sorry Meniscus (1999) ridicules the Millennium Dome. In 1997, he collaborated with Chris Petit, sculptor Steve Dilworth, and others to make The Falconer, a 56-minute semi-fictional "documentary" film set in London and the Outer Hebrides about the British underground filmmaker Peter Whitehead. It also features Stewart Home, Kathy Acker and Howard Marks.
Much of Sinclair's recent work consists of an ambitious and elaborate literary recuperation of the so-called occultist psychogeography of London. Other psychogeographers who have worked on similar material include Will Self, Stewart Home and the London Psychogeographical Association.
One of a series of works focused around London is the non-fiction London Orbital; the hard cover edition was published in 2002, along with a documentary film of the same name and subject. It describes a series of trips he took tracing the M25, London's outer-ring motorway, on foot. Sinclair followed this with Edge of the Orison in 2005, a psychogeographical reconstruction of the poet John Clare's walk from Dr Matthew Allen's private lunatic asylum, at Fairmead House, High Beach, in the centre of Epping Forest in Essex, to his home in Helpston, near Peterborough. Sinclair also writes about Claybury Asylum, another psychiatric hospital in Essex, in Rodinsky's Room, a collaboration with the artist Rachel Lichtenstein.
In 2008 he wrote the introduction to Wide Boys Never Work, the London Books reissue of Robert Westerby's classic London low-life novel. Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire: A Confidential Report followed in 2009.
In an interview with This Week in Science, William Gibson said that Sinclair was his favourite author. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2009. Sinclair commented: "I have always admired the RSPCA. They do a lot of good work."
- Back Garden Poems, poetry, 1970
- The Kodak Mantra Diaries: Allen Ginsberg in London, documentary, 1971
- Muscat's Wurm, poetry, 1972
- The Birth Rug, poetry, 1973
- Lud Heat, prose and poetry, 1975
- Suicide Bridge, prose and poetry, 1979
- Flesh Eggs and Scalp Metal, poetry, 1983
- Autistic poses, poetry, 1985
- Flesh Eggs and Scalp Metal: Selected Poems 1970–1987, poetry, 1987
- Significant wreckage, poetry, 1988
- White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings, fiction, 1987 (originally a limited edition from Goldmark but reprinted by Paladin)
- Downriver, novel, 1991
- Jack Elam's Other Eye, poetry, 1991
- Radon Daughters, novel, 1994
- Conductors of Chaos: a Poetry Anthology, editor 1996
- Penguin Modern Poets Volume Ten: Douglas Oliver, Denise Riley, Iain Sinclair, poetry, 1996
- The Ebbing of the Kraft, poetry, 1997
- Lights out for the territory: 9 Excursions in the secret history of London. Granta Books. 1997. ISBN 1-86207-009-1., non-fiction
- Slow Chocolate Autopsy, fiction, 1997
- Crash, essay, 1999
- Liquid City, non-fiction, 1999 (with Marc Atkins)
- Rodinsky's Room, non-fiction, 1999 (with Rachel Lichtenstein)
- Sorry Meniscus, essay, 1999
- Landor's Tower, novel, 2001
- London Orbital, non-fiction, 2002 (paperback edition 2003)
- White Goods, poems, essays, fictions, 2002
- Saddling The Rabbit, poetry, 2002 Etruscan Books
- The Verbals, in conversation with Kevin Jackson, 2003 Worple Press
- Dining on Stones, novel, 2004
- Edge of the Orison: In the Traces of John Clare's 'Journey Out Of Essex', non-fiction, 2005
- The Firewall (selected poems 1979 – 2006), poetry, Etruscan Books, paperback, 2006
- Buried At Sea, Worple Press, paperback, 2006
- London: City of Disappearances, editor, various essays about London psychogeography etc., 2006
- Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire: A Confidential Report, non-fiction, 2009
- “Sickening”, in Restless Cities, Edited by M. Beaumont and G. Dart, London: Verso, 2010. 257–276.
- Ghost Milk, non-fiction (memoir), 2011
- Blake's London: The Topographical Sublime, 2012
- Swimming To Heaven: The Lost Rivers of London, 2013
- American Smoke: Journeys to the End of the Light, 2014
- London Overground: A Day's Walk around the Ginger Line, 2015
- Black Apples of Gower, 2015
- "Goldmark Iain Sinclair Scholarship". Goldmark. Retrieved 18 September 2013.
- For U.K. Author, Games A 'Smoke And Circuses' Affair
- Gibson, William. Interview. This Week in Science. 2004-02-03. (MP3 recording)
- "Royal Society of Literature All Fellows". Royal Society of Literature. Retrieved 10 August 2010.
- Disappearances can be deceptive, The Times, 7 October 2006
- Iain Sinclair's Official Unofficial WebSite (sanctioned by the author)
- Iain Sinclair at the Internet Movie Database
- A Small Catalogue of the Uncurated – article by Iain Sinclair, Untitled Books
- Literary Encyclopedia page on Iain Sinclair
- Iain Sinclair at the Complete Review
- Reader Flattery A critical analysis by John Barker in MetaMute
- Iain Sinclair:Revolutionary Novelist or Revolting Nihilist?
- Londonostalgia Critique of Sinclair
- London Books
- Transit – a collaboration with Emily Richardson in Triple Canopy
- When In Doubt, Quote Ballard Extensive interview with Iain Sinclair about psychogeography, writing and J.G. Ballard
- Londonist interview
- 3:AM interview
- Robert Bond, Iain Sinclair, Salt Publishing, ISBN 978-1-84471-100-0
- An interview on Notebook on Cities and Culture