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London Orbital

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  412 ratings  ·  41 reviews
Encircling London like a noose, the M25 is a road to nowhere, but when Iain Sinclair sets out to walk this asphalt loop - keeping within the 'acoustic footprints' - he is determined to find out where the journey will lead him. Stumbling upon converted asylums, industrial and retail parks, ring-fenced government institutions and lost villages, Sinclair discovers a Britain o ...more
Paperback, 460 pages
Published October 28th 2003 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published October 5th 2002)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,894)
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Tremendous. The narrative arced as a measure of validation for all the bookish types minding themselves on the margins. I cannot praise this book enough. London Orbital remains anecdotal and poetic. It has a charm and understatement. Consider the blurbs from Will Self and Russell Brand. There is a grit and presence here.
Aug 20, 2007 John rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those with a very stong knowledge of English culture and history!
Shelves: travel
First of all: the author is brilliant. The bon mots fly faster dust motes in a tornado; to fully apprec iate them, the reader needs a *very* strong grounding in (somewhat obscure aspects of) English history and culture. I didn't get into the groove of Sinclair's style until nearly the end of this 500-page opus. Don't give up, but I don't blame those who do. Getting through this book is a similar to finishing a mental marathon.
P.S. I really, really could've used at least a simple map of his route
This was a real disappointment. As the title suggests, Iain Sinclair makes a trip around the M25, trying to define London by exploring it's outskirts. But his interests are morose, and his tone one dimensional. There are some interesting bits of history, mostly concerning the number of asylums and the smallpox hospitals, but generally, the trip is a real bore. I was really looking forward to this one, but it was dull as dishwater.
Iain Sinclair is a dreadful writer, and some kind of genius. He is the worst possible example for other writers to emulate, of which he should be proud.

His capacity for phrase-making is extraordinary: scarcely a paragraph goes by without some sort of rancid jewel of prose. His capacity for creating satisfactory large structures is almost zero.

His sense of psychogeography - of the past figured in the mundane present - is exhilarating. His obsessive return to certain themes and characters is like
Wayland Smith
What a very odd book. The author decides to try and hike around the "London Oribtal," the road that rings London. He wanders around with a cast of varying back up characters, and takes random side trips both literally and figuratively into the history of the areas he walks through. There's a lot of talk about pictures taken along the way, but none are included.

I've read a lot of English books over the years, and I'm reasonably conversant with British slang. It wasn't enough. I have no idea what
Remember the Dome? That strange New Labour project that drew us all to it to look at big stuff. I went a couple of times. I remember having a good meal in the 'posh' restaurant there. Then it died. Now people go to see Barry Manilow and Coldplay at the O2 and all memories of the Millenium are banished.

Iain Sinclair's book brings it all back. How we were on the eve of a new Millenium. Odd snippets of news remembered, anger at the developers carving up our forgotten and desolate wastelands to buil
I'm reading it again - on the principle that one should bend to the anti-clockwise centripetal force and exorcise both the putrifying scab of the malapropic Dome (O2, Greenwich Arena, future Heritage Centre) and the appalling corporate, Companion of Honour winning rave on Hackney Marshes. That's 249 miles of tarmac and concrete, double that along the disappearing rights of way, grass-tussocked canal paths, sign-cluttered Heritage bridleways and toxic fields .... over 1000 pages of tight, lexical ...more
I found this book maddening to begin with but fascinating by the end. It makes a coherent whole with strong central themes but I'm not sure if I was bludgeoned into submission by his repetition. His insistent conservatism can be overlooked. I stopped noticing that he never used one word (clause/sentence) when he could use three. I did make a mental note never to read any book(s) he may have written around 2003/2004 - the Dome/spin caused enough outrage and I can't imagine how much he'd have to v ...more
The M25 is a roadway that circles around London and it is generally considered to be a road to nowhere. Sinclair decides that he will walk the M25 (or paths next to the M25) through various neighborhoods and passing abandoned buildings, closed mental institutions, polluted neighborhoods, beautiful gardens and estates, and much more. Multiple "characters" accompany the author as he makes the walk around the entire circuit.

This was a fascinating book for me but it is clearly not for everyone. De
Mark Foulkes
Thought I would put this one in as my favorite book of recent years. I cannot really rate this one higher. A total triumph of dense factual and opinionated writing packed full of theory and conjecture. Every page is packed with information that must have been backed up with research. It really fired up an an interest in psychogeography in me.
Oct 21, 2014 Maik rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: stadt
It takes him one fifth of the book to actually get started on the titular journey, and after some very good bits, he now gets lost again. This is so maddeningly unfocused I lost patience in dissecting the promising trajectory from the chatty sidetracks. I took the train back to the city centre after the first half of the book.
This was a book that was almost not read because of the difficulty it presented in getting into it. I pressed on and I found moments in it that I really liked which made me wonder why it didn't read well from the beginning. To me it had almost a Joycean feel to the confusion that was being presented. I would say that you have to have a really good grip on London environs, who's who in British persons and an appreciation for his style as a writer. Again there were times hat what he said resonated ...more
Really not my cup of tea. The idea is interesting - walking round the M25 - but the way the book is written, you need doctorates in about eight different subjects to understand all his allusions and literary references.
Ian Mapp
Like no other book that I have ever read.

I am walking the London Loop, which covers similar territory, so thought this would be an account of some of the places that I am likely to hit. However, it is not written like this.

The author has the idea - walk the areas of the Capital where "London runs out". This is close to the M25. Its broken down into sections, working anti-clockwise. Sometimes he is joined by faces, such as Bill Drummond from KLF, other times its just him and an artist/photographe
John Beeler
Aug 02, 2007 John Beeler marked it as to-read
It didn't take long for me to realize that this would be an overwhelmingly hard read for me, or really anyone outside of London or Britian.

I gave up.
The style of this book meant that it took me quite a while to get through it but it was well worth it.
I would say that if, like me, you don't know the Greater London area too well it would help to have a map to hand for reference to give you a sense of place.
The book has dated a little by the author's multiple references to Labour's Millennium Dome 'white elephant'.
Well worth a read for the sense of a disappearing element of the UK around the M25 motorway.
I guarantee will learn some thing new fr
I like the basic premise of this. There is something mildly anarchic about walking round the entire M25 – no-one walks the M25 and you don’t see your surroundings as you drive, not even when you’re stuck in a traffic jam (which is often). It’s trampled on and devastated much of the home-counties - which is progress of a kind I suppose in our rush to become a global economy - but we’ve lost a lot along the way. And it’s true to say you only notice things properly when you walk.

Nonetheless the boo
It took me about three tries before I properly got into London Orbital, mostly due to my own state of mind but also because Sinclair's writing, which is sometimes a rush of names (of people, of places) took me a while to get used to. It's a psychogeographical enterprise, an attempt to record the effects of place on life, the way the city changes: "Outsiders are struck by effects, shifts, that locals walking their animals, or collecting their kids from a fenced-off school, take for granted. There ...more
I started this book 2 weeks ago. Ages ago. It felt like I was the one doing the walking on the M25 around London! And yet, I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Sinclair's British walkabout. I began with the intention that I was going to understand everything that was going on - I read the first two parts while sitting at the computer and looking at London and the M25 on Google maps, with extra windows open in Safari so I could check up on all the fast-flowing and random references that were being strewn abo ...more
Sarah Sammis
London Orbital by Iain Sinclair is an interesting counterpoint to Mrs. P's Journey by Sarah Hartley. It is part map and part memoir of the outer fringes of London where the M25 makes its 125 mile (give or take) loop around the city.

Sinclair's walk in the late 1990s was inspired by his hatred for the Millennium dome. Walking and mapping the areas around the M25 became a way to cleanse the palette. He broke the walk up into seven parts, working anticlockwise around the fringes of the highway.

I enj
Clive Lamb
Very dense. Requires long, slow chewing. At times too polemic. Italianate towers a recurrent image.
David Hallard
The page-turning locomotive of Sinclair's book is a distinctive fusion of prose and poetry. Though you will doubtlessly be left stranded at some point by the microscopically close focus of the author's obsessions, the trick is to hang on tight and allow the text's centripetal forces to yank you back on track. The body of knowledge over which Sinclair exercises a critical opinion is truly awe-inspiring, and promises much for successive readings. Excellent value for money.
I gave up not very far in. The writing style is both maddening and fascinating, and there are just too. many. words. So much could have (and should have) been left out. I would try and read this again if I ever become familiar with London. As there is no map included in the book, you have to spend the whole time with a map open on your computer or phone. It's clearly not meant to be understood by anyone not from London.
Guido Tenconi
Jun 02, 2015 Guido Tenconi is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Although I am italian, I speak english well enough to go through it; I know London and its outskirts enough not to get lost or to be surprised by all the obscure places he mentions; and educated enough not to miss most of his clever and cryptic references.
So I am going to finish this book but Lord Almighty this bloke most definitely is the most snobbish c**t I have ever stumbled into.
This book is long and feels long. The subject is interesting enough, and the author's insights and literary references are quite relevant at times, but an overwhelming air of pretension reinforced by constant namedropping makes the work mostly inaccessible for those who aren't familiar with London. I probably would have appreciated this more if I had an inkling about what living there is like.
Interesting take on London's social and political landscape from the view point of a road. I found it hard to get through as Sinclair has a tenancy to use sentences that read like lists, comma, after, comma. Sinclair has very good observational skills but I feel he is not a skilled writer, such as Ballard (who he endlessly cites).
Laura Morriss
I found this book fascinating, but at the same time, it took me over a year to read. The author manages to incorporate an amazing amount of factual detail without weighing down the narrative of his journey around London on foot, but for someone who is not British, some of the cultural and historical references are totally meaningless.
Rego Hemia
It's freaking amazing so far: a crack team of weirdos assembled to do a psychogeographic boundary walk around London. Right up my alley. Sinclair's similarity to Moore in his perspective gives me hope that I will be able to find more writers in this "family".
Darran Mclaughlin
Good, but not as good as 'Lights Out For The Territory'. I do like Iain Sinclair and I do appreciate the originality of his writing style, but unfortunately he goes over the same territory and obsessions again and again and it gets repetitive.
Writings about the author's trek around London following the M25. Not my cup of tea. 1.5 stars. One mention of a Dalmatian dog. Author walked the area where Bram Stoker located Dracula's Carfax Abbey. Definitely won't read again.
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Iain Sinclair is a British writer and film maker. Much of his work is rooted in London, most recently within the influences of psychogeography.

Sinclair's education includes studies at Trinity College, Dublin, where he edited Icarus, the Courtauld Institute of Art (University of London), and the London School of Film Technique (now the London Film School).

His early work was mostly poetry, much of i
More about Iain Sinclair...
Lights Out for the Territory: 9 Excursions in the Secret History of London Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire: A Confidential Report White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings Downriver Dining on Stones

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“Atkins knows two kinds of birds: seagulls and the ones that aren't seagulls.” 1 likes
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