Downriver: or the Vessels of Wrath: A Narrative in Twelve Tales

Overview

The Thames may still flow through the heart of London, but life along its shores has dramatically changed. The inhabitants of London's Docklands - crafty Cockney miscreants of yore - have lately been shoved aside by an onslaught of sleek condos and chic cafes. In Downriver, Iain Sinclair's first book to be published in the United States, the author traces the ruins of Thatcher's reign, through the lens of a fictional film crew that has been hired to make a documentary about what's left of the river life that was....
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1993 Hard cover 1st Us ed. New in fine dust jacket. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. Audience: General/trade. As new in fine dust jacket. 1993 STATED FIRST U. S. EDITION. Clean, ... tight copy with no writing. Fine dust jacket with very light edge wear and light shelf scuffing for its age. A NICE SOLID COPY! Read more Show Less

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Overview

The Thames may still flow through the heart of London, but life along its shores has dramatically changed. The inhabitants of London's Docklands - crafty Cockney miscreants of yore - have lately been shoved aside by an onslaught of sleek condos and chic cafes. In Downriver, Iain Sinclair's first book to be published in the United States, the author traces the ruins of Thatcher's reign, through the lens of a fictional film crew that has been hired to make a documentary about what's left of the river life that was. Downriver is a savage, satirical quest to understand how people's lives, a government's policies, and a legendary urban waterland conspire together in a boggling display of self-destruction. As ghosts of past and present appear, the action becomes a palimpsest of the real and surreal, historic and fantastic, luscious and seedy. Fredrik, the writer, "fretted by a restless and finger-jabbing energy"; Roland, an actor friend, "weathered, fit, tanned; beached, safely, on the far shore of thirty" who lives with his mother in a poshly restored riverside basement; Milditch, a rank book dealer cum fish monger-property dealer-two-bit actor; and Edith, the conceptualist stripper who comes to life from a vintage photograph to become one of the most startling and compelling women in modern fiction - these are a few of the motley bunch that accompanies the narrator on his Carrollesque tour along a demented and seductive riverscape. Swiftian in its scope and humor, Downriver is a darkly comic tour de force. Sinclair leads us through fractured dreams and a nostalgia for better times that is as suspect as it is inevitable. Winner of Britain's prestigious Encore Award for best second novel, Downriver has become celebrated in England for its astonishing energy and inventiveness. The novel's brilliance resides not simply in its luminous thoughts and plucky characters, but in its feverishly driven prose - all of which give its readers the sense that, as Angela Carter put
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In his U.S. debut Sinclair, a British poet, filmmaker, rare book dealer and jack-of-all-trades, puts his varied background to work in a dextrous, multifaceted novel of the London docklands. The narrator, among other sordid locals, has been hired by a movie production company to ferret out the ``real'' old-time docklands. Told as 12 stories set in the near future but riddled with spectres of the past, this novel attempts to do for this down-and-out area what Joyce did for Dublin: eulogize it with language so abstract and imagery so densely allusive as to simulate the layering of historical detail upon a specific locale. The result is nearly incomprehensible, but that's part of the fun; and Sinclair goes out of his way to entertain. His separate narratives introduce a bizarre assortment of sexual encounters and violent deaths, each as vivid and incoherent as any nightmare. Filled with the ghosts and wrecks of London history, inhabited by grubby barflies and Cockney wharf-rats, this teeming novel seems as rich, fecund and ultimately mesmerizing as the muddy Thames. Downriver won Britain's Encore Award for best second novel; Sinclair's first book, White Chapel , Scarlet Tracings , has not as yet been published here. (May)
Library Journal
Sinclair won Britain's Encore Award for best second novel for this mixture of fiction, history, travel memoir, and autobiography. It is ostensibly the story of a crew of writers and filmmakers who try to document the passing of a way of life in the gentrified Thames basin, the history they uncover, their attempts to develop a way to record it, and the problems Sinclair (who is both author and character) encounters in writing the script and the novel itself. Denizens of the basin, including a prostitute and a scavenger, appear throughout, and dogs and Masonry play important roles. The style is rich but often difficult, especially for a non-British reader (e.g., ``The effete whiggery of the neo-Palladian concourse was coming in for some foot-first roundhead aggro''), though Sinclair includes more accessible wit (``They were encrusted with enough badges to subdue a college of semiologists''). Recommended for literary collections.-- Harold Augenbraum, Mercantile Lib., New York
Mary Ellen Quinn
Like the author, the narrator of these 12 "fate" tales is an actor, rare-book dealer, and writer. He and an assortment of eccentric friends have been hired to make a documentary film about London's docklands, an area of trains, tunnels, factories, bridges, tenements, and wharves slowly giving way to real estate development. Their picaresque tour through this grim locale dredges up events from the past, including the career of Jack the Ripper and the 1886 sinking of the "Princess Alice" with the loss of 640 lives. Their adventures also provide a sometimes comic, sometimes sour commentary on modern life along the Thames, whose course teems with an assortment of tourists, suicides, mental patients, and dealers in secondhand appliances and rare books. Sinclair's novel is Dickensian in its re-creation of London's physical and spiritual geography and in its cast of odd characters with names like Milditch and Joblard. Unlike Dickens, however, Sinclair offers no plot; the stream of words and images crowds out any coherent narrative structure, and thus may frustrate some readers.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679420620
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/25/1993
  • Edition description: 1st U.S. ed
  • Pages: 448

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