Another deranged London anti-classic from Iain Sinclair

In Hackney, That Rose Red Empire (published by Hamish Hamilton tomorrow), Iain Sinclair brings together his fictional practices and his cultural journalism with stunning results. Sinclair has interviewed dozens of subterranean London figures such as Chris Petit and then, as he frankly admits, freely rewritten what they told him to suit his own agenda. I’ve already had hours of fun trying to work out what is true and what is made up in this book, and I’m sure once more people have read it this will generate endless pub discussions too.
The transcription of an interview with me bears little resemblance to what I actually told Sinclair. Likewise, Sinclair invents all sorts of fantastic stories about me and these include the allegation that after being beaten about the head with bricks I suffered short term memory loss (not true), I have a £600 bicycle (the cycle I bought in 2001 and still use actually cost less than £100), and he even has me imply that I wouldn’t involve myself in Hackney cottaging! Still the portrait he paints of me is mythic and I come across more like Julian MacLaren-Ross than the regular guy possessed by supernatural powers that I actually am; so overall it is rather flattering! But no mention of my boyfriends coz in this book I’m painted strictly as a serial ladies man – so watch out girls! If the material about me is a gauge of the rest of the book, then more than 50 percent of it is fiction.
Much coverage is devoted to the Hackney Mole Man William Lyttle, and while the recollections of some of those who knew him back in the eighties (basically me and my friend Mark Pawson, who rented a room from him) have some grounding in reality, it seems that the entire interview with this legendary figure is simply made up.  However, this may just be a double-bluff on Sinclair’s part. Who knows? For those who don’t know, the Mole Man is notorious for digging tunnels under his Hackney home and neighbouring properties, thereby making them unstable.
Needless to say, Sinclair’s documentary fiction is considerably more accurate than the telephone checked stories of Fleet Street journalists. Likewise, he doesn’t let the Hackney borders contain him, since he devotes a chapter to the Golden Lane Estate just east of Smithfield Market, an area notorious as Pickt-hatch in the Jacobean era due to the many brothels it housed, but now the base of writers like Tom McCarthy and Chris Petit. I only clocked the historical sex industry connection the other day as I was reading Thomas Middleton’s The Black Book, which takes up from Pierce Penniless by Thomas Nashe, where a modern footnote stated: “Pictk-hatch suburban brothel district, just south east of the intersection of Goswell Road and Old Street”. It is unfortunate I didn’t disinter this in time to tell Sinclair, so that he could include it in his book.
Drawing on A Dictionary of Sexual Language and Imagery in Shakespearean and Stuart Literature by Gordon Williams (Continuum International Publishing Group, 1994), I understand that a pickt-hatch was originally a brothel door with the upper part surrounded by spikes. Williams cites numerous examples of the term’s usage, including Middleton’s Black Book, and notes its application to the area now occupied by the Golden Lane Estate. It is interesting that this locale should have been notorious for prostitution because Fortune Street which housed the Fortune Theatre lies just to its east, and of course the Bankside stews were by The Globe, and there was a theatre in Shoreditch (another area synonymous with prostitution in Elizabethan and Jacobean London). I’m not sure if Whitefriars or Turnmill Street which were also stuffed with ‘punks’ and ‘bawdy houses’ back then also had theatres so close by, but there was obviously a connection between popular spectacle in the form of the theatre and the sex industry of that time.
Something else Sinclair doesn’t report is that the Golden Lane Estate was the work of the architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon, who later designed the adjacent Barbican complex. Golden Lane is also the current home of a shed load of artists and architects including Merlin Carpenter, the one time Martin Kippenberger assistant whose work was notoriously ‘rejected’ by the ‘master’ but subsequently used in a  skip installation. This type of information simply doesn’t catch Sinclair’s imagination and so isn’t in his book. That said, and despite my failing to pick up on the historical sex industry aspects of the Golden Lane area in time to feed it to Sinclair for use this time around, Hackney, That Rose Red Empire is easily the best book I’ve read this year. And I don’t expect to read anything better until my novel Blood Rites of the Bourgeoisie comes out with Book Works next year!
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – – you know it makes (no) sense!


Comment by The Inauthentic Iain Sinclair on 2009-02-09 12:05:10 +0000

No comment.

Comment by The Digital Marianne Faithfull on 2009-02-09 12:35:11 +0000

Iain Sinclair is my favourite writer, after Stewart Home of course!

Comment by K Mail on 2009-02-09 12:43:08 +0000

Well he ain’t my favourite writer, I was outraged by the Audi ad, a complete sell out! Psychogeography as hogwash! And incidentally the reason why the Home interview in the Sinclair book is so inauthentic is that he sent Michael K as a stand in double to do it. That’s also why Home didn’t have his bicycle when he arrived at Sinclair’s home, it wasn’t actually Home, it was K!

Comment by The London Spy on 2009-02-09 18:14:44 +0000

If you lot had been paying attention you’d have heard another Golden Lane Estate resident Eric Parry on “The Radio London Robert Elms Show” at lunchtime today. Parry sounded uncomfortable and a bit of middle-class knob talking to a full on working-class geezer like Elms. Wonder how he got along with his council tenant neighbours? However he did cite “Blow Up” as his favourite London film so he can’t be all bad. Parry lives or lived in the same Golden Lane block as Chris Petit, but we’ve heard he’s possibly either just sold or is trying to sell his top floor flat. In case you’re interested, below is the blurb off the front end of his architectural practice website.
Eric Parry Architects is an established and award-winning practice with a growing portfolio of notable work. The practice has gathered together talented individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds and a wide range of experience – as a result EPA operates easily within any frame of reference, whether the Far East or continental Europe.
The practice approaches all work with intellectual rigour, and also seeks to integrate the highest level of craftsmanship in all schemes it undertakes. We are currently working on a number of highly prestigious commercial projects in the City and West End including 5 Aldermanbury Square, 60 Threadneedle Street, 23 Savile Row and 50 New Bond Street. We are also responsible for cultural projects involving highly sensitive historic buildings including the renewal and extension of the Holburne Museum of Art in Bath, and the restoration and renewal project for the historic St Martin-in-the-Fields Church in Trafalgar Square.
In addition to architectural and urban design, we have an excellent portfolio of interior design projects, including residential interiors and office fit outs. We continue to be involved in other types of design, including bespoke furniture, ironmongery, carpets and textiles. We have also worked on successful landscape projects varied in scale and complexity.

Comment by John Barker on 2009-02-09 18:17:11 +0000

Comment by Msmarmitelover on 2009-02-09 18:38:49 +0000

Crackney is special. You need a passport to leave the isle of Smackney.
The murder house on London Fields. The lido where I lived for a while.
When is somebody going to chronicle Watling street and Kilburn in the same way?

Comment by His Master’s Voice on 2009-02-09 19:31:55 +0000

Mister Trippy your own methods have been cannibalised here, as a shuddering advance on the only kind of truth worth attempting. As Patrick Wright said in ‘Journey through Ruins’, “Hackney Town Hall is where all the most outlandish conspiracy theories go to come true”.

Comment by Fats Snuffleburgher on 2009-02-09 19:46:00 +0000

What about naked working class girls? They always seem to have their clothes on in Sinclair books coz they’re still looking for johns. Seems like there isn’t any other kind of working class woman there, unless she is a bag lady….

Comment by The Rewriter of a False History on 2009-02-09 20:40:46 +0000

Better to come across like Julian MacLaren-Ross than Malcolm McLaren….
And as we all know, history is simply a chronologised collection of supposed facts noted by a miscelleny of uneliable narrators, assimilated and totalised to form a ‘narrative’ by ‘historians.’ You can probaby learn as much about what really happened or what was said by reading fiction anyway.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-02-09 20:52:44 +0000

Thanks Chris, now rewriter of a false history…. that is kinda what Sinclair said about my writing in Lights Out…. but the link A provided to the Barker review was good too… And wacky as well that whenever I go literary on here the blogs get reposted elsewhere. This one on 3AM already, and the one on the last Tom McCarthy/Simon Critchley INS event on 3AM and Surplus Matter…. Strange it just doesn’t happen in the same way when I cover the art world… and the INS might have been taken as art world but I think essentially it is literary….. And yes I am still working towards smashing literature, art, philosophy etc.

Comment by Caroline on 2009-02-09 22:14:05 +0000

Hi Mr Trippy,
I work at a newspaper on Golden Lane too… just thought you’d like to know

Comment by Msmarmitelover on 2009-02-09 23:31:04 +0000

Hey Caro,
how you doing? Lets use Mr. Trippy’s blog to socialise yeah?
He doesn’t mind.
He can be the new facebook…bookface!
Can you get IM here too?
And applications?
I send you all a groove sensation!

Comment by Díre McCain on 2009-02-10 00:19:21 +0000

But is it REEEEAAAALLY Chris? Hmmmm…
“By five a.m. I was convinced I was a goner, and it drove me into a state of unmitigated panic. Before anyone noticed, I slunk into Joe’s bedroom, climbed into the sack, pulled the covers over my head, and swallowed the pills the Scotch-Irishman had given me, hoping they’d alleviate the maddening discomfort. Whatever was in those magic beans did the trick, within twenty minutes I was out cold.”

Comment by Msmarmitelover on 2009-02-10 00:37:57 +0000

how do you pronounce your name?
It’s most unusual.

Comment by Díre McCain on 2009-02-10 01:30:54 +0000

Like “Fire” with a “D”, my dear…

Comment by THE CLEANER AT BOOK WORKS on 2009-02-10 11:51:41 +0000

Hey home-boy…since information about the Semina series has been in short supply since you announced it on Myspace in 06, how about blogging us up on that project. I’d do it myself (if I could find out) but I’m not allowed to speak to you when I come in at 5am to find you unconscious having vomited over a group of seventeen-year old hookers keen to get a slice of the Book Works ‘action’. By the way, are these your knickers?

Comment by OEDIPUSSY on 2009-02-10 13:05:29 +0000

Oh don’t bother..Book Works is just bourgeois reds producing coffee table fodder for the bourgeois whites, m’negri

Comment by RED LONDON on 2009-02-10 13:14:55 +0000

Yes but these days, the reds dont go with meat and the whites dont go with fish. And dont mention the vodka & blacks. Volksplonk dirk technique!!

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-02-10 13:53:33 +0000

Hey Caroline yes there is only one newspaper I know of on Golden Lane. “The Methodist Recorder” – allegedly ‘the world’s leading Methodist newspaper’. Published in London every Thursday, price £1.10 122 Golden Lane, London, EC1Y 0TL, UK.
1861: THE first edition of the Methodist Recorder and General Christian Chronicle (motto: “The truth in love”) appeared on Thursday, April 4, consisting of eight pages, price one penny (right). Editorial and business offices were at 83 Fleet Street with the paper being printed and published for the proprietors by a printing company at No 121.
1863: The paper moved across the road from 83 to 161 Fleet Street, where it remained for the next 76 years.
1939: With the premises at 161 due for demolition, the paper moved to a new “temporary home” at 116 Fleet Street. After the outbreak of war, the Recorder was evacuated to the St Albans home of the editor, Mr Wiseman, from where it was published, in conjunction with the London office, throughout the war.
1956: The Recorder moved to its final Fleet Street address, No 176, where it remained for the next 27 years.
1983: On November 5 the Methodist Recorder moved from Fleet Street after purchasing the freehold property at 122 Golden Lane, London EC1). A supplement on November 10 marked the “new chapter in the life of the paper” after 122 years in Fleet Street. A plaque was unveiled on November 24 to mark the official opening of the premises, which had been substantially refurbished.

Comment by The Truth of Fiction on 2009-02-10 19:47:24 +0000

“I believe, for instance, that the truth of fiction is sometimes stronger than the truth of the newspapers.

Comment by Msmarmitelover on 2009-02-10 19:57:23 +0000

Well Miss Caroline IS deeply religious.

Comment by Caroline on 2009-02-10 21:02:23 +0000

all I can disclose is that we are the ‘worldsleading’ xx

Comment by Stewart Home on 2009-02-11 12:07:13 +0000

Hey did anybody see Janet Street Porter (a fine looking woman any year) doing that documentary on the BBC last week about the forthcoming extinction of the print industry with the focus, in this instance, on newspapers. It made me glad to be in work and a “star of the silver screen the silver screen” as Michael K used to put it when I wasn’t him (although epistemologically ‘I’ can never be ‘sure’)

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-02-11 23:46:33 +0000

I could have sworn someone else said that….

Comment by Díre McCain on 2009-02-12 00:38:35 +0000

Temporal reduplication is the statement that a current experience has occurred previously and is the enduring manifestation of the deja vu phenomenon…

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-02-13 19:04:49 +0000

Toot toot!

Comment by howling wizard, shrieking toad on 2009-02-16 13:16:49 +0000

“I have seen pictures of such people in old books. But is he dead or what?”

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