If you are looking for an antidote to the recent jubilation and relieved back-slapping over the London 2012 Olympics, Ghost Milk could be for you. Published in 2011 and nominated for Wales Book of the Year: Creative Non-Fiction Short List 2012, this is Iain Sinclair’s latest London memoir.
Iain Sinclair is a British writer, documentary and film-maker, and poet. Born in Wales and educated at Cheltenham College, Trinity College, Dublin, the Courtauld Institute of Art, and the London Film School, Iain Sinclair has lived in Hackney since 1969. In 2004 he told the Guardian,‘I didn't intend to be one of the people who writes about east London’, but one look at his bibliography will show you that London swiftly became his muse.
Devotees of Iain Sinclair’s work will recognise his style. This is dense writing. At 69 the author is like a voluble child: eager to tell you everything he thinks and sees. The poet in him is evident in the description (here 'a dun confetti of cigarette stubs', there 'a heron dance of cloud-scraping cranes') but the reader must work to follow the stream of consciousness. His film-maker’s eye ensures highly visual writing and many film references.
Ghost Milk is part travel memoir, part tribute to past days, part political criticism. The book is split into a five-part kaleidoscope maze to include: London's history focussing on changes in the Lee Valley in the decades before the 2012 Games (‘In my work, the pains of the past need to be appeased - or they will come back.’), the construction of the Olympic park; a walking expedition along the Thames from mouth to source, a trip to Hull to follow the architect Will Alsop and his plans for an M62 SuperCity and lastly more unpalatable reality at the Olympic park, visits to Berlin, Athens and America, and an explanation of the title.
Iain Sinclair tells photographer Mimi Mollica that Ghost Milk means ‘CGI smears on the blue fence. Real juice from a virtual host. Embalming fluid. A soup of photographic negatives. Soul food for the dead. The universal element in which we sink and swim.’ Mimi says, ‘Crazy, Mr Sinclair.’
This book is part treasure box, part recycle bin. It contains everything from reminiscences on temporary jobs Iain Sinclair took in the 1970s, to musings on the Beijing bred poet Yang Lian and multiple references to J.G. Ballard, to the foot-related injuries of his wife. The reader must follow the daisy chain woven by this self-confessed 'crocodile dissident'.
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