London Overground by Iain Sinclair is a peculiar book. Iain Sinclair describes a daylong trip on The Ginger Line, taking this walk as a pretext to draw his image of the city. His wiring is visual, his descriptions are graphic. He seems to eviscerate the city, he wants to show its ever changing underbelly. The transformation of the city brings and reflects the change of society, destroying the microcosm of each little neighbourhood. The writer’s physical movement becomes a narrative device that enables him to give a voice to deep reflections that reminds the Woolf’s stream of consciousness. The walk is a bridge that connects the different layers of the city, from the underground rave parties at New Cross Gate to Verlaine and Rimbaud’s home in Howland Street passing through the upper class world Lady Diana in Chelsea Harbour. Sinclair’s language is difficult and sometimes obscure, bordering into poetic prose.
This is a piece of writing inspired by London Overground:
“I live in Ernest Street. My house is in a decrepit block of buildings between Stepney Green and Mile End. There are two ways to get to the Tower hamlets Cemetery Park. The first way follows Mile End Road, it leads me along the Queen Mary’s University buildings into the teeming whirl of the City. On this way I can see young students with their belly button exposed and their hair bleached in every shade possible. The last flickering flag of a conformed rebellion. They are all claiming to be different in the same way. Next to them there are women all covered in thick layers of black. I just can glimpse their smile by their eyes. Ravens and rainbow.
Mile End Roads then unravels in a cluster of chain shops. A Costa café next to a Starbucks’s. Coop next to Sainsbury’s. Competitors that crawls next to each other in the swarm of a capitalistic stampede clashing into itself.
The second way to Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park takes me through Mile End Park. A different universe opens in front of my eyes. A world made of lazy Sunday walks, of tea sipped on the porch in front of the canal. I observe the picturesque houses on Regent’s Canal with nostalgia. Ducks waddle on the water and remind me of home. A family home. The mocked bourgeois ideal that is dear to the people stuffed in the concrete buildings just next to this park. In this way I can snatch a quiet moment away from the relentless swarming of strangers of the main road. Like a drop of clean water in a polluted river.”