REVIEW by Paul Cooper

NWR Issue 103

American Smoke, Journeys to the End of the Light

by Iain Sinclair

Since making his name with the essay collection, Lights Out for the Territory (1997), Iain Sinclair has pushed the boundaries of modern writing from one extreme to the other. Whether it’s walking anticlockwise around the M25 ‘to see where it leads’, or repeatedly trying to infiltrate the London Olympic Park in the run-up to the games, he’s an explorer as much as a writer, unravelling as he walks, peeling away history and literature as they settle in layers on every place he encounters. In the time since selling his handwritten poetry collections on the streets of Hackney, Sinclair has carved himself a niche as one of Britain’s best-loved countercultural figures. Every book he has written over the last sixteen years has been a work to admire. This is why it’s such a shame that this, his latest hotly anticipated book, is mainly just smoke.

American Smoke follows the lives of the American Beats, seeking to walk in their footsteps across the great continent and link their lives together across the ‘tribal and connected’ American cultural scene of the 1950s and beyond. There are no dates, though. Events occurred, or didn’t, somewhere in the smoke of time. Everything here is relative. ‘Everybody met everybody. Everybody f*****d.... They feuded, fought, formed intense friendships, sulked for generations....’

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previous review: Poetry, Geography, Gender: Women Rewriting Contemporary Wales (Gender Studies in Wales)
next review: Red Eye


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