As part of the acclaimed Manchester Literature festival, a gaggle of celebrations of all things literary, Iain Sinclair, a contemporary psychogeographer, presented his new book, American Smoke.
Gracing the beautifully exposed brick walls of the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, on a vain level I thoroughly enjoyed the location of the event. A tasteful interior and impressive array of modernist fiction gives the former mill an aura of scholarly opportunity, as if any essay I worked on in this location would gain a first due to intellectual osmosis.
However, my dreams of intellectual success were dampened, literally, when a man spilt his pint on me. After swiftly moving to my seat, in a pathetic attempt to dry my saturated clothing, Sinclair was warmly welcomed by the University of Manchester’s very own Jerome De Groot. Formalities aside, Sinclair began to explain his attempts to ‘build up an argument with place’, describing his absorption with Hackney in his youth, a setting of many of his novels. However, despite this geographical setting, Sinclair mused about his utter absorption with the United States of America, and how this culminates in his forthcoming novel American Smoke. He described the novel as a walk in the footsteps of Kerouac and Olsen, among others, stitching together fictional memories and awakening these literary masters.
His readings were very enjoyable to listen to, featuring lively writing and contemporary references, such as Boris Johnson. However, I do have a complaint. In one reading he references both Middlesbrough and Hull as dystopian microcosms. Heightening my swell of annoyance due to the lingering smell of beer, I could not ignore this insulting allusion to the two cities near which I grew up. Admittedly, they are not the most pleasant of places, but this blind remark reminded me somewhat of Lord Howell’s idiotic definition of the North as ‘desolate’.
Anyway, other than this remark, the writing and content was somewhat charming and full of quips, and the experience was enjoyable (other than the beer and geographical discrimination).