Wading through Iain Sinclair’s London Orbital is like trekking through some tropical rainforest, where the wildlife is surprising and surprisingly beautiful, if at times off-putting; a hard slog but rewarding, the closeness to the senses overwhelming, and the larger picture a bit difficult to discern. It’s all a bit foreign, even though only just off the beaten track of civilisation’s familiarity.
Sinclair is a surprisingly normal looking individual, with his sensible shirt. But he is something of an alchemist with words. They arrive in a dizzying barrage, of both information and linguistic gymnastics. He is like one of those highly intelligent conspiracy theorists whose apartment walls are plastered with photos and a web of lines connecting them in vast, almost impenetrable theory.
London Orbital cashes in on post millennia hype (or is it hang-over?), and on the surface catalogues a journey by Sinclair and friends around the M25, the roadway that is London’s “noose”. He is fascinated by the liminal spaces – the empty lots, the detritus, the chaotic artiness that can appear beyond the fringes of the respectable and desirable society. And the oddbods that inhabit those spaces. He is also interested in the way, particularly in Blair and Brown’s Britain, but of course more widely in the West generally, that history is erased, not just by the bulldozer, but also by the copy writer engaged in the production of glossy real estate brochures or government policy statements..