You know: in a foolish, undiscriminating way, I've been happy these last few months. I don't know why. I just am. I love my friends; I love my pupils; I love what I read; I -- dammit -- love my thoughts. I love the taste of oranges.
Thornton Wilder in a letter to Gertrude Stein, Aug 14, 1936

Friday, June 3, 2011


Slow Chocolate AutopsySlow Chocolate Autopsy by Iain Sinclair
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sinclair's subtitle is Incidents from the Notorious Career of Norton, Prisoner of London. "Incidents" is the apt word. The book has twelve sections, four of them graphic narratives illustrated by Dave McKean, the remarkable graphic artist who works frequently with Neal Gaiman. All twelve sections could be called stories, given how loose that category has become, but they are clearly not chapters in a novel, no matter how loosely that category might be defined. There is murder, ghosts, miserable day labor, a mysterious nighttime soccer match, and a evening with the British mid-20th century crime scene. Norton is there, whether the time is the present day or the 16th century, sometimes as a central character, at other time a more peripheral presence. Once he is glimpsed only as a laborer who leaves for lunch and never returns So yes, each section is an incident, chronologically unhinged but firmly based in a London that is both world and prison for Sinclair's characters.

Phantasmagoria were popular Victorian entertainments where magic lantern technology allowed presenters to send images of ghosts and demons careening about a dark interior. Slow Chocolate Autopsy is a type of phantasmagoria. I found I was alternately lost and exhilarated. It's best to let the images wash over you and enjoy the ride. Although it wouldn't seem possible, the final pages takes the work to a whole new level of unexpected strangeness.

HIghly recommended for those whose favorite J.G.Ballard work is The Atrocity Exhibition.

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