Different non-fiction writers use different research techniques. Iain Sinclair‘s works are different than Rachel Lichtenstein‘s. Some critics described their collaboration and different styles in Rodinsky’s Room as “a mixture of curry and ice-cream“. Creative practise does not always mean the same, and in this case, the practise that Sinclair does is extremely interesting.
Sinclair writes non-fiction, but when you read London Overground, there is always something that seems unexpected. It is almost a narrative device – and more like a piece of performance. Walking around the new Ginger Line in a day. It seems pretty hard, but exciting.
A day’s walk can’t result in such a book. Iain Sinclair must have been in those places before – and he wanted to feel, to sense the changes. He came back again after the Ginger Line was built. And he came back several times again. Then he did research. His book is full of literary references and different stories, maybe too much information condensed in very short sentences.
Sinclair is a careful observer. He does not go alone on his journey – Andrew Kotting, his artist friend, goes with him. He’s his companion, the person that stimulates Sinclair to tell stories – and who tells stories himself. He brings a lot of comedy to the book.
As we said in class, sometimes Sinclair seems to expect a previous knowledge of London that some of the reader don’t have (me). He was a little over-descriptive, the pace of his writing was very fast and sometimes the style was obscure. That is something that gave us an inspiration for an interesting matter: as a writer, should you think about the reader’s comprehension and reaction, or not?
As an aspirant writer, I do. I think my writing is very much explicative and, though sometimes I curse too much (I think I have too much Salinger and Welsh in my bloody veins), I consider my style as really simple. But every book works differently to a reader. And something can work in a book but simply can’t in another.
Literary references and personal recollection are very important elements in the book. Sinclair is an alive encyclopaedia, and he uses different styles that mirror the diversity of London. He uses comedy, he makes jokes and treats some places as familiar and comfortable. At the same time, his writing is lyrical and poetic and it feels like he can always uncover a mystery about London. But it is not a secret, that new discoveries can always be made in a city like this.