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the ninth most emblematic webphoto of hackney

From the TLS review of Iain Sinclair’s Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire:

In an interview with a local free sheet, the Hackney Citizen, Sinclair mentioned that this book was originally meant to be a novel, a sort of Hackney Ulysses, prophetically structured around the theme of creeping debt and taking place over a single weekend. But the notion “was entirely negative . . . and I didn’t want really want to write on that depressing note”.

I will buy the book tomorrow, despite the fact that a) my wife yelled at me today for the sheer number of Amazon boxes that have been dropping through our mailslot this week and b) I yell at myself nightly for not reading any – any! – of the books that I so frequently buy. 480 pages – at the rate I read lately, if I came at it singlemindedly I might finish it just before the start of the 2012 Olympic Games.

I like the start of the review, too:

Writing in the TLS in November 1950, Julian Maclaren-Ross dismissed Roland Camberton, a London novelist who had settled into Maclaren-Ross’s Soho bohemia, as “devoid of any narrative gift”. A year later, the TLS was kinder to Camberton’s second novel, Rain on the Pavements, a loosely fictionalized account of the writer’s native Hackney. At the time, the London borough retained a strong Jewish identity – one from which Camberton, raised as an orthodox Jew (born Henry Cohen), had long been trying to escape. Julian Symons described this return to the novelist’s home territory as “a book of considerable charm”. But Camberton’s second novel was his last. As far as the literary world was concerned, he disappeared.

Camberton’s curtailed, mysterious literary life story might have been drawn up to Iain Sinclair’s specifications. Sinclair’s output and energy take up a lot more shelf space but, as the editor of London: City of disappearances, the co-author of Rodinsky’s Room, a quest for a missing East End cabbalist, and the creator of a distinctive oeuvre devoted to the vestigial, he naturally sees the vanishing Camberton as a kindred spirit. There is evidence, too, of a shared passion for the everyday details of urban life. Sinclair takes a passage from Rain on the Pavements as his own “statement of intent”:

“It was necessary to know every alley, every cul-de-sac, every arch, every passageway; every school, every hospital, every church, every synagogue; every police station, every post office, every labour exchange, every lavatory; every curious shop name, every kids’ gang, every hiding place, every muttering old man . . . . In fact everything; and having got to know everything, they had to hold this information firmly, to keep abreast of change, to locate the new position of beggars, newsboys, hawkers, street shows, gypsies, political meetings.”

This way of looking at the world, of combining attention to detail with Casaubon-like fantasies of completeness, has long been Sinclair’s favoured mode.

Written by adswithoutproducts

March 1, 2009 at 12:08 am

Posted in crisis, london, novel

3 Responses

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  1. For two years in late 2002-04 I lived in the bottom left flat above Michloren, which appears in this picture. It’s on the ever-noisy Stoke Newington High Street. A late-night Turkish Pool Bar called Efes used to be next door, though that seems to have gone on the photo. I almost went mad from the constant noise, and it was around this time that I started IT. How odd that this picture is supposed to be representative of Hackney! It was a very odd time all told…

    infinite thought

    March 1, 2009 at 11:03 am

  2. The door to the right of the picture under the Michloren sign was the door to the four flats above (127a being mine). Some mornings I had to step over someone sleeping in the doorway. There was lots of sick a lot of the time, including the incident where a girl puked into my bag filled with old copies of Telos. It was both darkly funny and disgusting to see Telos covered in vomit, and I had to rinse them off in the shower.

    My favourite place near the flat was The Jolly Butchers (they changed their name I think). Here was happiness. One night we very overjoyed to see an escapee Orthodox Jewish guy from Stamford Hill dancing in a tight circle with two butch lesbians, while a guy in a wheelchair asked me to sit on his lap. We drank Guinness, I think.

    infinite thought

    March 1, 2009 at 12:37 pm

  3. …wherein she spake of most disastrous chances,
    Of moving accidents by flood and field
    Of hair-breadth scapes i’ the imminent deadly breach…


    Yes, obviously I didn’t realize that I’d clipped a pic of IT’s former flat… strange, passing strange…


    March 1, 2009 at 5:36 pm

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