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White Chapel, Scarlet Tracings

(London #1)

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  286 ratings  ·  26 reviews
A novel about London -- its past, its people, its underbelly and its madness.

"In this extraordinary work Sinclair combines a spiritual inquest into the Whitechapel Ripper murders and the dark side of the late Victorian imagination with a posse of seedy book dealers hot on the trail of obscure rarities of that period. These ruined and ruthless dandies appear and disappear t
Paperback, 208 pages
Published April 29th 2004 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published 1987)
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Average rating 3.66  · 
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 ·  286 ratings  ·  26 reviews

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Jordan West
I am genuinely unsure about how to rate this one; on one hand, there is some jaw-dropping writing on display, particularly in the sections detailing the exploits of the jaded, amoral 'bookmen', which are rendered with such midnight black humor they become brilliant expressionist grotesque - Bacon canvases captured in prose. On the other hand, as the book progresses the varying narratives become so fragmentary and the writing so oblique that I'd be hard-pressed to say what was occurring and what ...more
Oct 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
The present inseminated by the past. Birthing monsters. The past sired by the present, park bench nightmares. Dimensional vortices. The third ensnaring the two. Shopping bag suicide. Fiendish rituals to save the Empire. Whitechapel swollen with brick-built ghosts, history and fiction in simpering coital secrets. Wrists sliced to the rhythm of screams.

Hallucinatory streets, madness lifted from the pages. Saucy Jack embalmed in myth, riverine worms, cerebral puddles, eye-agonies of starlight. Doc
This book is like a Peter Ackroyd novel or Alan Moore’s From Hell(sharing nearly every plot point and idea, an influence on Moore, though also from similar sources) rewritten by a mad beat poet with a flair for Burrough’s cut-ups and humor, Borge’s claustrophobic theories on literature and reality, Blakeian visions, Lovecraftian horror, and something that trickled out of your deepest nightmare. Sinclair’s humor like Burrough’s is so bruise dark that it is something other. Not for anyone looking ...more
Dec 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british-lit
Sinclair takes the reader through the Jack the Ripper story of East London while following a motley lot of itinerant book scouts. Sinclair's characters are slimy and money hungry, constantly trying to find that one book that will make them a ton of loot. I've read reveiws that said you need to be up on your East London locations and Ripper stories to really enjoy this read, I disagree. I've never been to East London. All I know about Jack the Ripper is that he killed prostitutes in London. But i ...more
Charles Dee Mitchell
Is it possible to enjoy a book while aware that you are not "getting it"? Obviously, yes, at least three stars worth.

I have been looking forward to reading Iain Sinclair, and have built up a small battery of his books. This is the first one I've tackled, lured in by its brevity and the plot lines that promise dissolute used book dealers and Jack the Ripper.

The book dealers, given my slight contact with the British used book trade, I found completely believable. There is razor thin Nicholas Lane
Paul Baldowski
May 23, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Sinclair, Moore and Ackroyd
I suspect people who use the sort of terminology would describe this as a 'marmite book', except I'd go so far as to suggest that you'll either like it or you'll not even want to occupy the same room as it. Iain knows how to write, but his frame of mind and perception of the world can be tough to align with and really enjoying this book might require a shift in consciousness.

'White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings' following a dual story line, one in the modern world - an obnoxious band of London-base
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Apr 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Prose sings, reality is bruised, a veritable encyclopaedia of Ripperology is sluiced through recondite esoterica and everyone from Vincent Van Gogh to Wild Bill Cody makes an appearance. Heady stuff; Sinclair constantly decoheres the plot in deeply unsettling ways, turning this into more of an extended invocation than a novel.
Daily Alice
Nov 22, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I am left wondering why I continued on with this book. I kept thinking surely I will get it/ it will start making sense/ it will come together soon? But it never did. I disliked it more with each page. I can't even tell you what the story was because I just didn't get it. There were a string of graphic scenes but nothing ever gelled. I can't recommend this book to anyone. ...more
Apr 14, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very difficult to get to grips with, even with background knowledge of the subject material. Still, the writing has a very hypnotic effect, which draws the reader in. Stylistically it is very interesting, retaining much of the poetic rhythms of his earlier work.
Oct 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Lovers of deep literature
A (literally) twisted tale of booksellers, pop and high occultism, and the undercurrents (Whitechapel and the Ripper mythos) that shape a city (London), White Chappel, Scarlet Tracings is a book that is sometimes too clever and meta for its own good, a book-shaped overreacher that somehow makes a lot more sense than it should. By the end of the book, you might care less about the booksellers that we join on their wild journeys across London than about the books they hunt, sell, buy, steal; you m ...more
Fabricio Alejandro
Finalmente, y después de varios años, terminé esta ¿novela, texto poético, filosófico? Sí, es todo eso. Me imagino que debe haber sido un trabajo arduo para el traductor; de hecho, tengo entendido que es el único libro de Ian Sinclair traducido al español.

Hay que encararlo con la predisposición a la metáfora cruda, a los juegos de palabras y a las imágenes onírico-conceptuales; de otra manera, su lectura resultará un fiasco. Pero una vez que uno se acostumbra a esta prosa poética, el texto es su
Roger Boyle
I got this from some Internet recommendation, but cannot remember which.

The fault is all mine - this is a beautifully written book by someone who really knows and uses language to the full. Many reviews will sing its praises, and rightly so, I suppose. But I struggled hugely with the narrative, which is an error as that's not, I think, the point of the book.

So it's a stream of beautiful paragraphs with several intertwined stories which I did not have the concentration or energy to disentangle. S
Michael Moseley
I am really not sure what to make of this book. It was a great ride around some of my known haunts of London but what was it about? Lot about the Jack the Ripper and a possible prime suspect Sir William Withey Gull. But vast amount about book selling and sellers, quite frankly I was very confused. Some wonderful language and writing keep me going to the end but I seemed to miss the whole point of this book. I would love for someone to put me right.,
Jan 04, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: londra
Non lo ricordavo così ostico, è il culmine del Sinclair esoterico/ermetico di Lud Heat / Suicide Bridge, il debito con Burroughs si sente nel clima straniato e straniante, è uno di quei libri che (squartandoli come il ripper con le sue vittime) ti costringono a imbrattarti le mani con il contesto per capire davvero.
Mike Mcconnell
Feb 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Strange ramble through the lives of a ragtag bunch of book collectors.
Sep 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviews, 1980s
Peter Ackroyd is a great explorer of the London landscape...yet he tends to follow in Iain Sinclair's footsteps, finding a more popular path through the geography of a city steeped in history. I like both authors, but prefer the extravagance of Iain Sinclair's style and imagination. Here he is on the hoof through Whitechapel: "A tide pulls us around islands of dereliction, gypsy spaces, remnants of civic concern, carefully plaqued, railway arches worked with wrecked motors, scrap melt." In this, ...more
Mar 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a poet's novel, challenging and beautiful. Diverging and disparate plots notwithstanding, a book worth reading for the descriptions of the eccentric characters alone. If the Jack the Ripper chapters are not to your taste, simply skip ahead to the next chapters featuring the grotesque and highly entertaining book runners, book sellers, book collectors, and book obsessives. Grouped together, those chapters comprise a fascinating biblio-mystery. Nicholas Lane is based on the legendary book ...more
Jason Das
Sep 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As much a novel-length poem as anything else. The reading experience was not unlike listening to a long piece of music. I expect I could read this over and over and notice different things each time. As it was, I reread many paragraphs and sentences on the first time through, but that's not a fault in this case. Much less about Jack the Ripper than I was led to believe; that felt like a minor background element. ...more
May 15, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Needed to push myself to get through this - I did get the more esoteric stuff, the Gull/Hinton stuff but some whole chapters were just... well, couldn't decipher their meaning in the big picture. There's not that much familiar structural or narrative stuff to hold the hand of the reader while descending to the psychogeography of Whitecapel.

Anyways, glad to have read this, if only for the gloating rights.
May 04, 2007 rated it liked it
Utterly confusing, roundabout and troubled, this book is a perfect representation of the tumultuous eras portrayed through a bevy of characters and settings. My only issue is that you need a thorough knowledge of the Ripper case and an even better knowledge of East London or many of the scenes will seem jumbled and flat. I'll definitely need to reread it to get a better understanding of all the minute details. ...more
Tony Naturale
Dec 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While this can be a difficult book to breeze through, the efforts in doing so help one to pull in the many, and many, threads of thoughts popular on campus as well as New Age and downright freaky Victorian/Jack the Ripper crimes.
During the postmodernism craze, with influences of Heidegger's absence/presence and Derrida's writing/erasing, what is seen is but a filter, to be removed by any available means, including scalpel.
Jan 07, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
there's some good bits, like the part with the elephant man, and some of the stuff with the shady book dealers, but it never really comes together. his use of really short clipped sentences gets irritating after a while too ...more
Jan 21, 2016 added it
It would be really unfair of me to give this a star rating. I've tried twice now to get into this book (which was one I really, really wanted to read), but I can't get past more than 30 pages. Even though I hate giving up on a book, I think I'll try to flog it to a used-book buyer. ...more
Michael Grasso
May 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Thoroughly embarrassed it took me this long to read this.
Apr 05, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-school
mostly bunk
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Feb 23, 2008
David Lamerton
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Jan 18, 2013
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Valancourt Books: White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings (1987) by Iain Sinclair 1 15 Aug 03, 2015 01:45PM  

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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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