A book had been delivered, a walk around the Overground, to be read on the Underground.

I found my feet drawn to the terminus of the line, for my daily commute encompasses two ends of two lines. A guaranteed seat all the way, both ways. The sign on the station read ALDGATE. The book appeared to have title and subtitle, not sure which took prominence in the description. To combine the two seemed excessive, but the main title alone stood proud in ambiguity. The title of the book is evidently the subtitle. A form of marketing that the author seems to abhor.

The train was late. It usually is at this point. A display board saying that the train is ready, or will leave in 2 minutes being ever overly optimistic. Other trains, like the Overground being circular in nature take precedence in this part of the Underground.

The book is also late. It takes two chapters to start. A walk around the Overground, two chapters in, takes another few pages to commence. The walk announced, is delayed, much like the train the reader is sitting in.

The readers journey from Aldgate to Finchely Road is roughly one chapter in duration, offering convenient punctuation marks, and time to recover en-route to Stanmore. As the reader travels in linear form, the writer ambles a circular route.

Long paragraphs rambling about celebrities once met, artists once partied with, buildings once lived in. The author is stuck in the 1970s. The world has moved on. The author dislikes change.

Modern trains carry the reader along while the book laments the passing of the old. Anything new is blamed on Thatcher. Most of the readers were born after Thatcher left political office.

Too superficial. Not real. Punctuation marks aplenty. Old London, grimy London, workers London — all was once new London. Superficially denigrated by Victorians and Edwardians who decried this new modern way of life. Now the new is old. The once-new is loved. The new-new is loathed. To be written about in a century as loved old London as whatever new replaces it is in turn loathed. The turn of history, as circular as the Overground.

More rambling, some detours, occasionally talking about totally different places. The reader is reading about Denmark Hill, the writer jumps over to Haggerston. Geographical confusion abounds.

The train announces that the destination has changed. The reader looks up. Momentary alarm. How to terminate the journey, its intended completion now denied.

Pages are turned. More chatter about the silent companion on the walk. Overly graphic descriptions of blisters on feet. The reader recalls a walking journey. Windsor to Picadilly Circus. Stones worked their way into the heel and did sufficient slow damage to render walking impossible the following day. The journey was repeated many times, as hours of meditation.

Pages turned. Ink on paper. The old way. Normally, the reader prefers digital. Digital can enlarge fonts, making reading easier. The printed book has chosen larger fonts. Fewer words. More pages. Thicker book.

Princess Diana makes a voluminous appearance, the long lost ghost of the early 1980s, when all was glamour, big hair and expectation of good things. Today’s celebrities bask in the grungy look. Not unlike the ramshackle businesses that is so applauded within the book.

The reader struggles. Long pages writing about artists he hasn’t heard of. He feels stupid. Should he know these people? A few names occasionally spark a moment of awareness.

The topic of the book is barely held together by these musings. The Overground is a barely noticed filament tenuously holding together a thread of narration.

london-overground-iain-sinclairIt took two weeks of commuting back and forth to read a day’s walk around another train line. Completing a book is often a mixed emotion of pleasure at what has been enjoyed, and satisfaction at completion, but sadness that it is over. Unlike the commute which is usually the exact opposite.

The book was finished, and just two stops past the usual terminus. The final pages a sprint to compete before too many stops had passed and the return to the morning’s start took overly long.

London Overground, A day’s walk around the ginger line, by Iain Sinclair is available to buy from modern places such as this, or less modern places as the author would prefer.


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  1. George says:

    Hahaha brilliant! I once struggled read his book on Hackney and found it similarly unreadable.

  2. Hockey Mike says:

    Thanks for the review – I’ll know to avoid wasting any time on this book!

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