In the Land of Grail Quests

By Chris Darke, 10 April 2001

Following the relatively mainstream visibility that Lights Out For The Territory earned him, Iain Sinclair returns to the clotted spleen of his fictional prose with this foray beyond the metropolis and out into the pre- foot ‘n’ mouth hinterlands. Especially to Wales, the land of his father. As usual with Sinclair, it’s many books rolled into one in which several Grail Quests vie for precedence. A gallery of book-dealing grotesques rub grimy shoulders with washed-up media-whores, the present-tense shifts in the beat of a semi-colon into deep history, notably that of the doomed Welsh utopian communities of the port Walter Savage Landor and the artist Eric Gill.

The book is dedicated in part to John Sergeant, the director of the wonderful, neglected British essay film The Blue Summer (2000), who is more than a little the inspiration for the character of Jos Kaporal. Kaporal also turned up in Asylum, Sinclair’s last film collaboration with Chris Petit (see Mute 17). Many pleasures here; amongst all the bile are lyrical appreciations of countryside, sharp insights into the power of the digital image and disconcertingly forensic descriptions of the horror of bad food. “‘Coal’, Prudence announced, bending her knife on something walnutty and black. ‘They used to mine it, now they serve it with a hollandaise sauce’”. Tuck in.

Chris Darke <chris AT>

Landor’s Tower: Or, The Imaginary Conversations // Iain Sinclair // Granta Books // April 2001 // 320 pages // ISBN 1-86207-018-0 // £15.99