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American Smoke: Journeys to the End of the Light
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American Smoke: Journeys to the End of the Light

3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  74 ratings  ·  21 reviews
The visionary writerIain Sinclair turns his sights to the Beat Generationin America in his most epic journey yet

“How best to describe Iain Sinclair?” asks Robert Macfarlane in The Guardian.“A literary mud-larker and tip-picker? A Travelodge tramp (his phrase)? A middle-class dropout with a gift for bullshit (also his phrase)? A toxicologist of the twenty-first-century land
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Hardcover, 320 pages
Published April 15th 2014 by Faber & Faber (first published November 2010)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 254)
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Joe
As a big fan of many Beat writers, this book was a disappointment. Perhaps Sinclair's road trip is too late by decades. The Gary Snyder visit is interesting, because Snyder is very well practiced at handling this sort of fly-by literary tourism. He's gracious, but also insightful enough to ask Sinclair what he wants. And it's clear that Sinclair doesn't know.

That's OK for a road trip book I suppose. It's a journey of discovery, right? But all I discovered was that I was bored. Reading about wha
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Stuart
Would have liked it a lot more if it were half as long and edited by someone who's not in love with the sound of his own voice. Arty and affected, this guy just can't go a paragraph without trying to remind us that he, too, has a poet's soul. After a hundred pages it's just embarassing, like that friend of a friend who just won't stop bugging you to read his manuscript. The only redeeming point was being introduced to Charles Olson, who sounds worth checking out.
Colleen
Name dropping travelogue of Beat Poet tour of the US. Didn't get vaguely interesting until the author visited Burroughs (but of course Burroughs was old and we didn't get much insight into his life except that his current schedule is centered around a methadone fix and a drink). As for what drove these Beats to reject the worldview of post-war America, barely sketched. Disappointing and excruciating to read.
Paul M.M. Cooper
Since making his name with the essay collection Lights Out for the Territory (1997), Iain Sinclair has pushed the boundaries of modern writing from one extreme to the other. Whether it's walking counter-clockwise around the M25 'to see where it leads', or repeatedly trying to infiltrate the London Olympic Park in the run-up to the games, he's an explorer as much as a writer, unravelling as he walks, peeling away history and literature as they settle in layers on every place he encounters.

In the
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Brian
A relatively slim volume, 'American Smoke' is an extract from Iain Sinclair's forthcoming (2011) book 'Ghost Milk: Calling Time on the Grand Project'. Sinclair's prose is as sinuous and dreamlike as ever, and from the few pages here, which narrate a portion of an alternative US road trip without recourse to the car, I'm looking forward to reading the full book next year.
Alana
If I knew more about Beat writers and the high points of beat writing history, this book may have been more interesting. As I am, and as it is, I read it because I considered it in the category of cultural vegetables. The author, an Englishman who traveled to various spots around North America and Europe to walk in the footsteps of some Beat writers, has a great knack for description and poetic disassembly. Though I often couldn't figure out where he was, and sometimes even what he was talking a ...more
Tosh
As a reader of Iain Sinclair books, one is just on the journey that he's taking. I'm happy to have him as my guide to the underworld that is London, but now, he's on my home turf, meaning America. Not only America, but it's Beat America. Sinclair journeys to the actual locations, but more important he journeys in the text of the Beat's literature. As well as follow their footsteps. And no, since it is Iain Sinclair, we're not getting a tour like on a tourist bus - the material for him is a empty ...more
Al Maki
Aug 07, 2014 Al Maki rated it 1 of 5 stars
Shelves: dnf
The book is the story of an extended road trip by an Englishman in North America, meeting and interviewing his literary heroes, primarily beats. Gary Snyder is one of my favourite writers and when somebody publishes a book with a chapter about him I read it to see what I can learn. Not much in this case. I think it would be possible to precis the chapter in one or at most two paragraphs. Snyder could probably do it in a few terse stanzas. The book seemed to say more about Sinclair's finding Nort ...more
Rose
Iain Sinclair's American journeys in search of Charles Olson, Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso, William Burroughs, Malcolm Lowry and others. His descriptions and observations are interesting, but it is easy to get lost in his spirialing style as he does not indicate any dates, and hops from place to place at seeming random. Still it is a great experience. It was surprising to find a few nods to H.P. Lovecraft. I also enjoyed his coverage of some antiquarian book dealers.
Adam
Iain Sinclair resumes his psychogeographic tour, but switches from the familiar streets of London to a journey around a hidden America seen through the memory landscapes of the Beats. The book concentrates on the lesser known poets and writers who disappeared into the half-histories of myth and broken memories of the vast American landscape. Deeply written and multi-layered.
Rupert Reynolds-maclean
I think I would have lined this a lot more if is read some of Sinclairs books and more Beat writers work beforehand. It's one of those books I've read that I appreciate but can't say I really liked and I probably would have given up had I not been on holiday with nothing else to read.
It has made me more interested in everything he was talking about though and I did like the style on which he wrote it which was fairly different to a lot of other prose.
There were some lovely moments in there but t
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Sarah Anderson
I am of the generation that grew up in the 60s - and although I found this book had interesting insights into many of the players - I couldn't share the author's obsession.
Craig
Excellent, but I think I would have got slightly more out of it were I more familiar with the authors in question (Lowry, Olson, Kerouac, Burroughs etc.).
Michael Grasso
Just wind him up and let him go; Iain Sinclair's discursions are better than a hundred authors' theses.
Kenny
Beautifully written prose at times but, perhaps, my knowledge of the Beat Poets wasn't sufficient enough to really appreciate all of this book.
Sasha
Compelling, fragmentary, and full of ghosts.
Graham Tennyson
If non of us are where we think we are, where are we? This book might make you want to check out some of the artists mentioned (Olson, Snyder, Burroughs and others) or it could send you on a journey of your own - with of without a swan pedelo! I know what it makes me want to do ...
Lesley Botez
I'm afraid I abandoned this book. It's very experimental in style which I found beautiful for short passages but heavy going for a whole book. The subject matter did not hold my attention sufficiently to carry on. Sorry
Owen
It amazes me that I've never read a Sinclair before- he strikes me as exactly the kind of writer I would read. Anyway, not really sure overall but really excellent in places, I enjoy the way he flips about in time & place all the time.
Michael
Starts strong, goes wrong.

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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
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More about Iain Sinclair...
London Orbital 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

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