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Ackroyd, Ballard, Amis, Moore: 'four points of blokish energy'

Author: • Dec 29th, 2007 •

Category: Australia, Ballardosphere, Iain Sinclair, paranormal, William Burroughs

Just came across this snarky but amusing comment from reader Nabakov over at Aussie left gruppo blog Larvatus Prodeo:

Damme, Ackroyd just keeps pumping them out doesn’t he? He must have a whole crew of cheeky culture vulture mudlarks and fey, fettlesome and febrile Oxonians slaving away in the secret cellars of his Limehouse Penthouse. He makes James Michener look like some lollygaggin’ Yankee.

I always liked what the real magus of secret London, Iain Sinclair, said about Peter Ackroyd. “He’s Colonel Mustard and he did it in the library with a research assistant.” And Ackroyd does look a lot like the good Colonel Moutard.

Yes, Ackroyd’s written some brilliant books. Hawksmoor, The House of Dr Dee, Chatterton, are all superbly written and psychically charged tales about the hidden human bones of London. And Albion: History of English Imagination is the best book ever about a subject no one realised existed until he wrote about it.

But both Ackroyd and the other strange geomancy warlock of English letters, JG Ballard, are now in their own deadpan, sly and slightly bitchy english way, sorta coughing and nudging their audiences towards Iain Sinclair.

It’s like a quincunx (cue Durrell, Fowles and Golding. Fellow magicians but self-imposed exiles from Old Lud). Currently you have Ackroyd, Ballard, Amis fils (although his batteries are ebbing a bit) and Alan Moore setting up the four points of blokish energy (This is a male incantation thing. I’m sure you chicks are up to equally weird shit with the London Energy. Looking at you in particular Miss Angela Carter. Death is no excuse) and in the centre is Iain Sinclair assome kind of lightening rod cum Leyden Jar for it all.

Fuck it. FDB, just read Downriver for starters. Imagine if Burroughs was a Londoner with Blake’s gift of transcendental vision. Whether you love it or hate it, you’ll know you’ll have read something by someone really plugged into that big grim green secretly exuberantly and dourly surrealistic metropolis spawning ever outwards from a river named after time.

A city where a statue of a (Darkest) Peruvian bear greets you at the Heathrow train terminus at Paddington Station while it’s biggest folk hero is a mass murderer.

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7 Responses »

  1. Overwritten.

  2. Like “Little Big”, another novel which suffers from being overly elaborate, I have never been able to get very deeply into “Radon Daughters” either, after several attempts. Too, too much visible scaffolding, for my taste. Love Pynchon, however.

  3. Funny, I thought R was referring to Nabokov’s comment as ‘overwritten’! Which it may very well be.

    I still think Iain Sinclair has a good Ballard bio in him somewhere…

  4. Yeah, I was referring to the comment.

  5. I doubt Sinclair would be able to temper his default tone of condescension enough to write a bio of anyone unless it was a sketch like those in Lights Out for the Territory. Even in the BFI Crash book he can’t resist digs at Ballard, comparing him to a genial duffer like Frank Muir. Given that Sinclair’s career has skidded from a promising start into incoherence and irrelevance, I often wonder what he has to be so condescending about.

  6. Ooh, sorry John — I’m not touching that one.

    I did really enjoy the Crash book, even though, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m astounded that it’s more a Ballard bio than a book on the film Crash. I still wonder how it sneaked past the publishers.

  7. Ha! I should have said I still like Sinclair’s non-fiction, condescension or no. But I lost patience with his fiction around Slow Chocolate Autopsy.

    I saw Sinclair give a reading from the Crash book after it appeared and spoke to him a bit afterwards but that conversation was more about architecture and things. There was a Q&A as well but I pretty much forget everything that was said. If he hadn’t signed some books I’d probably question my having been there at all.

    The BFI brief seems to have been pretty loose from what I’ve seen of the other books in that series, the primary interest being in notable writer + notable film. The Richard Corliss book on Kubrick’s Lolita reviews the film (not very successfully) in the manner of Nabokov’s Pale Fire, a pretty eccentric exercise.

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