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Strange Labyrinth: Outlaws, Poets, Mystics, Murderers and a Coward in London's Great Forest Hardcover – 6 Apr 2017

5.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books (6 April 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1783783435
  • ISBN-13: 978-1783783434
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.5 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 21,191 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

'Strange Labyrinth, a reckoning with the 'outlaws, poets, mystics, murderers' of Epping Forest, is interwoven with other elements in an account that soon shifts from documentation - a cultural guidebook [...] - to a delirious fiction of doctored memory and free association... [A] timely survey [that] honours some of those [characters of Epping Forest]' -- Book of the Week Review, Guardian by Iain Sinclair

'An anarchic hymn to the scruffy edgeland of Epping Forest, the ancient wood that sits on the boundary between London and Essex... Fascinating... [A] glorious book you'll enjoy getting lost in' -- Observer

'[A] twisting, [...] deeply satisfying exploration of the intellectual terrain covered by artists, writers and performers who share a connection to this place... with remarkable scope, unconstrained by boundaries of genre or style... a clever piece of work, a joy and an education... This is at heart a book about anxiety and fear, and our prospects of breaking through the enclosure our fears impose upon us... [Ashon] shows courage in taking on this ambitious project and deserves acclaim for pulling it off in such style' -- Spectator

'Ashon [writes] with verve and a winning candour about his own fearful nature, as he makes his meandering way between the trees' --New Statesman

'I can't begin to tell you how intrigued I am by this book... Ashon's strange brew of nature writing, memoir, psychogeography and punk history has a very anarchic feel to it' -- Bookseller

'Strange Labyrinth is a wonderful exploration of the tangled undergrowth of the psyche. Ashon is an anarchic Green Man; a puckish punk of the forests and here he has invented a new genre: Gonzo Romanticism' -- Jon Day

'Wilder than Macfarlane, funnier than Deakin and more emotionally engaged that Sebald, Will Ashon turns getting lost in the forest into high art, and great entertainment. By the end you'll probably be looking for a berth up a tree alongside him'-- Matt Thorne

'I found it mercilessly lucid, wildly expansive yet down-to-earth, and misanthropic as only books with real heart can be. There's tendency to treat psychogeography as a form of archaeology but he bypasses anything resembling fossils for a more intriguing, irreverant and animated approach. These are fragments of the past brought to life in the present, and a fascinating, cynical yet wide-eyed and inspiring, despite itself, present set in the greater scheme of things. A journey into the dark and terrible maze that is Englang with a guide much Minotaur as Theseus' -- Darran Anderson

'From John Clare to Crass, Will Ashon unearths magic in a forest that is more than mere harbour and hide-out for dissidents, dreamers, poets and outlaws, but which represents an entire narrative strand of an ever-changing England. Here is deep questing into both person and place, masterfully delivered' -- --Benjamin Myers

'Extensively researched and hilariously self-deprecating, Strange Labyrinth takes us on a journey that is funny, moving and fascinating' -- Idler

'Unlike any book about a landscape that I have read recently; it has a certain rawness and vulnerability to it as Ashon faces his fears... [His] interviews with those that have sat on the fringes of society are enlightening as they are interesting. It was well worth scrabbling through the understorey with Ashon to discover the ghosts of the past, the sounds of the present and the possibilities of the future of Epping Forest' -- Halfman Halfbook

'I was hooked, enchanted even... [An] intensely personal, magpie's jewel box of a book... Extraordinary and entertaining... a splendidly erudite but engaging book. Ashon is a self-deprecating and discursive guide, often very funny... A wonderfully idiosyncratic, somehow very British book which delighted me from start to finish' -- A Life in Books

'Strange Labyrinth treads its own path. It is a literary provocation, a defence of the disorderly narrative, and a call to get more lost' --Caught by the River

About the Author

WILL ASHON was born in Leicester in 1969. Having worked as a music journalist, he founded the record label Big Dada Recordings in 1996, which he ran for over fifteen years, signing acts like Roots Manuva, Wiley, Diplo, Kate Tempest and Young Fathers and, in the process, winning the Mercury Music Prize twice. He also published two novels with Faber & Faber, Clear Water and The Heritage. He currently lives in Walthamstow, north east London.


Customer Reviews

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Format: Hardcover
This is a highly engaging read. Ashon wanders off the path in the forest and comes back with something interesting and important to tell us. Yes this is book with a fair amount of history in it (much of it fascinating) but it is by now means confined to this. Neither is it just about the forest as a place. Instead Ashon unearths very pertinent questions about the world around us and asks us to consider how the world we live in has been divided up and the effect of this on us and our imagination. Along the way Ashon opens the door on a variety of colourful (real) characters and through them a picture emerges. I should also say that it is frequently funny and and Ashon is a very engaging character is his own work.

I wasn't sure exactly what to expect but was very soon also lost in the woods. A surprising find from a very original voice and one that I have thoroughly enjoyed. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
Gripping, unusual and fascinating wander through Epping forest meeting the strange characters that haunt it. Whether he's leading us through magic, murder and madness, or anarchists, dogging and trespass, Ashon is a sage yet wry, often self-deprecating guide through an area enchanted with stories.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This is a book which uses words like ‘enantiodromia’ (noun, rare - the tendency of things to change into their opposites, especially as a supposed governing principle of natural cycles and of psychological development). The meaning is explained early on, but I had to flip back and look it up a couple of times before the general idea stuck. But having done that, I already felt clever and like I’d learned something. It also made me want to argue with the book, so it was a challenging and worthwhile read.
It is not a light read, but the writing is good and very engaging. Probably I missed stuff, but I did not feel as though I had to concentrate too hard for too long at any one time. This was because the book seemed to move on from one short 'essay' to another. At times it felt a bit like watching over someone’s shoulder during one of those internet encyclopaedia browsing sessions where you end up down some fascinating rabbit holes. This comparison doesn't work though, because the author obviously did a lot more than just Wikipedia research. A vast amount more in fact, and it shows.
The 'essays' are all linked into an overarching midlife crisis narrative of how and why the book came to be written. It is quite likely that the book is cleverer than I am able to recognise, since I am shamefully shackled by relative ignorance of, and knee-jerk derision for, post-modern theory. The good news for anyone in the same boat is that you don’t need this to enjoy the book. There are call backs to previous chapters, and reminders of what we are meant to have learned, but these are not intrusive and don’t get in the way of the fun. Above all, you do get the sense that it was mostly good fun to research, act out, and write.
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Format: Hardcover
A brilliant book so the author needs to have less self-doubts! Strange Labyrinth is a strange book which I found very interesting. One thing leads to another which is the way of the world. I hope my friend Lisa was one of the ladies on horseback the author encountered.
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