If this really is the last of Sinclair’s London, as the title suggests, then he’ll leave you wanting moreby Peter Robins / August 15, 2017 / Leave a comment
The Last London: True Fictions From an Unreal City
by Iain Sinclair (Oneworld, £18.99)
Iain Sinclair’s walks in and around London have been famous for at least 20 years now—they became his avowed subject in his 1997 book Lights Out for the Territory, having underpinned another two decades or so of poetry and fiction before that.
It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that many of his walking companions on the essayistic excursions of The Last London seem distinctly aware that they’re in an Iain Sinclair book. One is writing an account of his own for a little magazine; two more, in a chapter on cyclists, protest against Sinclair’s angry essay on the subject published in the London Review of Books.
And Sinclair himself is consciously revisiting previous work, most touchingly in a memorial to Martin Stone, the book dealer mythologised in his first novel. He demonstrates the depth of his London learning even as he shows the city slipping beyond his understanding—his walking routes on this occasion are notionally determined by the sightline of the Vegetative Buddha, an unmoving tramp in Haggerston Park from whom he can extract neither a name nor a definite gender, but does manage to spin a gripping account of how regeneration erases marginal people.
Some of the satire is too easy (did you know that young professionals use smartphones a lot, and often begin sentences with “so”?) but the depth increases as the book goes on, and the same sentence frequently draws both a laugh and a gasp. If this really is the last of Sinclair’s London, he’ll leave you wanting more.