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Edge of the Orison: In the Traces of John Clare's 'Journey Out of Essex' Paperback – 26 Oct 2006

3.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (26 Oct. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141012757
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141012759
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 371,210 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Iain Sinclair was born in Cardiff in 1943. He is the author of numerous works of fiction, poetry non-fiction, including Lud Heat; White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings; Downriver; Radon Daughters; Lights Out for the Territory; Rodinsky's Room, with Rachel Lichtenstein; Landor's Tower; London Orbital; Dining On Stones; Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire and Ghost Milk; American Smoke and London Overground. Downriver won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Encore Award. He lives in Hackney, east London.


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Format: Paperback
Iain Sinclair's retracing of one of literature's most famous (and sad) journeys- that of the 'Peasant Poet,' John Clare from his Epping Forest asylum back to his home in Northamptonshire-should have been a classic. John Clare was unique among the romantic poets in that he was from the labouring classes; he wrote some of the finest nature poems in English literature and he was one of the first 'celebrities' in the modern meaning of the word. Feted by London society, Clare succumbed to madness and entered into a long decline. Sinclair is working with such promising material that I'm surprised that he didn't do more with it. Surprisingly, Sinclair choses to go off on tangents so we get lots of material about Sinclair's small walking party; Shelley's drowning, James Joyce's daughter (a later asylum inmate) and biographical information about Sinclair's wife's tenuous family connections to Clare.

I felt that Sinclair did best when he stuck to his story. In 1820 Clare makes his first visit to London as a rustic novelty: Sinclair compares him to the Elephant Man, which I thought was an interesting comparison. He is also good at describing the wide eyed wonder Clare must have felt walking around the city in the era of Blake and Keats. It was a city of whores, resurrection men, disease and overcrowding. A world away from Clare's rural life and a wholly different moral atmosphere to that of the poet's rural upbringing. Was being feted in this corrupt city the source of Clare's mental torment?

Sinclair's latter day reconstruction of Clare's journey begins in the industrialised landscape of the Lea Valley in the midst of industrial estates, motorways and travel lodges and he makes his way north via various Hertfordshire towns.
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Format: Paperback
On the face of it, it's a logical progression: Sinclair's explorations of London lead him out to the M25 circuit of "London Orbital", the final leg of which takes him through Epping Forest and past the start of John Clare's walk home from the asylum, the walk at the core of this book. This ought to be fertile territory for Sinclair and indeed he writes on the empty countryside of Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire with the same sardonic vividness he brought to the inner city. However, it's a book of fragments that don't cohere. Clare's walk is retraced, and this is recounted in fractured timescale; but we also get a walk along the Great Ouse in the company of the artist Emma Matthews who is revisiting the site of her father and sister's drownings, a tour of Northampton with the graphic artist Alan Moore (centring on the asylum that housed Clare and also James Joyce's daughter) and an exploration of Sinclair's wife's family history, centred on the village next to Clare's: different strands linked only by geography, which Sinclair fails to weld into an artistic whole.
The family history quest involves some well-described explorations of the Fenland landscape, but also rather too much detail of which William begat which Robert - family history here, as always, being more interesting to the researcher than to the outsider who has it recounted to them.
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I.just love wandering through the mind of sinclair..he never bores, always intrigues and rarely loses his.mental and physical way and.I am glad when he wanders offroad and walks for me and most of his readers..inspiring stuff
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I am very interested in the subject of this book and looked forward to reading it with relish. I was a bit disappointed though as I found it quite hard going. I'm not sure I like Iain Sinclair's style of writing; the very short sentences and the obscure references, which I found hard to understand. Perhaps I am not intelligent enough for this book. The parts I really enjoyed were the ones, which other reviewers didn't appreciate; the family history references. I am researching the same Rose family tree so I was very pleased to learn any fact I could about this family. I live in Peterborough so I lapped up any mention of local villages, although I didn't like the author's obvious disdain for Peterborough itself.
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My desert island book. Intense, quirky, personal yet never losing sight of John Clare himself. I've read this three times and get more out of it each time.
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