Book Review: Dining on Stones by Iain Sinclair

A free-flowing weaving evocation of the A13. Topographical magic-realism. Using a troupe of characters Sinclair relentlessly explores futility, writer’s block, research-over-imagination, research-fuelling-imagination, research-fooling-imagination, old age/burn-out/impotence/toothlessness/pointlessness, the fickleness of reality, integrity per se and the Teflon nature of truth.

Crime thriller/noir/pastiche/documentary/psychogeographicacy; buddy movie/cross-cut/multi-layered screen play… multiple voices clamour, undermining and questioning what’s just been read.

Sinclair-ian, self-referential streams of consciousness, adjective-crammed. Staccato obfuscation. A wilful haring-off down blind alleys, dead-ended by erudition and arcane references. The novel as hall-of-mirrors, a non-plussing tour-de-force, free of plot and packed with stories.

Fleet-footed/flitting/tangential/preoccupied it’s never an easy read. Mid-way through one of those unreal hyper-real stream-of-consciousness rants the energy of the prose can tie itself in knots, become dissipated and flabby. You begin to wonder if it’s worth the effort to keep going. But the general rule should be to stick with it, as there are gems in the sludge, nuggets of ephemera, thought-provoking asides, exotica and a visit to the knowingly wry madhouse library that is Iain Sinclair’s psyche is rarely wasted time. Hallucinatory. Indigestible. Enigmatic. Right.

Q. How do you eat an elephant? A. One small piece at a time.


“It’s not exactly effortless, but as natural as walking, offering layers under layers, delicately digging through the archeology of dreams and desires, resolving towards the condition of music, and making you wonder if Sinclair’s is the last possible form of literary writing before the CD takes over from the printed word.”

Michael Moorcock review, The Guardian 01 May 2004


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