London Orbital is Iain Sinclair's voyage of discovery into the unloved outskirts of the city.
Encircling London like a noose, the M25 is a road to nowhere, but when Iain Sinclair sets out to walk this asphalt loop - keeping within the 'acoustic footprints' - he is determined to find out where the journey will lead him. Stumbling upon converted asylums, industrial and retail parks, ring-fenced government institutions and lost villages, Sinclair discovers a Britain of the fringes, a landscape consumed by developers. London Orbital charts this extraordinary trek and round trip of the soul, revealing the country as you've never seen it before.
'My book of the year. Sentence for sentence, there is no more interesting writer at work in English'John Lanchester, Daily Telegraph
'A magnum opus, my book of the year. I urge you to read it. In fact, if you're a Londoner and haven't read it by the end of next year, I suggest you leave'Will Self, Evening Standard
'A journey into the heart of darkness and a fascinating snapshot of who we are, lit by Sinclair's vivid prose. I'm sure it will be read fifty years from now'J. G. Ballard, Observer
Iain Sinclair is the author of Downriver (winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Encore Award); Landor's Tower; White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings; Lights Out for the Territory; Lud Heat; Rodinsky's Room (with Rachel Lichtenstein); Radon Daughters; London Orbital, Dining on Stones, Hackney, that Rose-Red Empire and Ghost Milk. He is also the editor of London: City of Disappearances.
At first glance, this may appear to be only a book of observations about walking alongside the M-25, the roughly 150-mile highway that encircles London, but it is actually a complex, literary meditation on crime, urban sprawl, the effect of automobiles, British politics, the relationship between history and modernity, and perhaps not least, the importance of good footwear. Sinclair (Lights Out for the Territory) writes in a hyper, staccato style that in a single passage can run the gamut from Beat poetry ("Narrative fractured. Verbals didn't stand up. Confessions wouldn't cohere. The motorway was loud with Chinese whispers") to the paranoid, embellished worldview of Hunter S. Thompson ("When dusk fell, villains took to their cars. On the cruise. Tooted up with hand guns, machetes, petrol cans, monkey wrenches"). As with Thompson, one gets the sense that Sinclair's hyperbolic descriptions get at the truth better than a more conventional portrayal ever could. Sinclair is an artist with no patience for cheesy development, shopping malls or the very highway on which he walks, slicing past beautiful countryside and abandoned factories alike. The writing is often enjoyable, but at times heavy-handed and replete with references that will escape those not conversant in British culture: "An excuse to sample oysters in Whitstable (Notting Hill prices)," he writes, "to swim at Walberswick (Southwold: the new Hampstead)." The book is both fascinating and exhausting, and readers will find themselves rewarded even if they need to put it down frequently just to stretch their legs.