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Landor's Tower: Or Imaginary Conversations Paperback – August 1, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books (August 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1862074887
  • ISBN-13: 978-1862074880
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #627,614 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

British writer Sinclair is best known on this side of the Atlantic for two cultishly popular works of nonfiction Lights Out for the Territory, a virtuosic London travel narrative, and Rodinsky's Room (with Rachel Lichtenstein), the history of an obscure Jewish scholar. This is Sinclair's U.S. fiction debut, and it is as distinctive as his inimitable nonfiction, distinguished by the same vital, labyrinthine prose. The novel's multiple plots are rooted in the plight of Norton, an overcommitted London poet and general hack, assigned to write a study of the half-forgotten Victorian writer, Walter Savage Landor. Since Landor attempted a utopian experiment in Llanthony, Wales, Norton makes an investigative journey there. Meanwhile, he is barraged with tapes from an investigator named Kaporal, who is trying to find the key to the mystery of Jeremy Thorpe, a real-life '70s Liberal leader who was disgraced when he was accused of conspiring to murder his lover, a male model. After Norton has a brief affair with a bookstore owner named Prudence, who disappears, he himself is apprehended by the police for Prudence's murder. Norton doesn't recognize the victim as Prudence, though he does recognize the details of the murder, which imitates a bootleg snuff film starring Britt Ekland and various political worthies shown to him by Kaporal. Finally, the Thorpe conspiracy somehow begins to dovetail with a slew of suspicious suicides in the West Country in the '80s. Sinclair is reminiscent of Pynchon in both his encyclopedic set of references and his discomfort with the palliative function of plot. Rather than resolving the complications of his story, Sinclair is determined to ramify them until they form a dense counterworld of memory and chance. B&w illus. (Sept.)Forecast: It remains to be seen whether Sinclair's fiction will hit the same nerve as his nonfiction, but Sinclair's U.S. profile will undoubtedly rise upon publication of Landor's Tower. Major review attention may safely be expected, and Granta is sending the author on a U.S. tour.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

British literary biographer Peter Ackroyd has called Sinclair (Lights Out for the Territory: Nine Excursions in the Secret History of London) most inventive; he is also relentlessly self-referential and wildly allusive. In his latest, Sinclair simultaneously plays the roles of author and narrator critiquing his own fiction. The narrator of this tale is writing a fictional version if the life of volatile poet Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864), author of Imaginary Conversations of Literary Men and Statesmen. Landor's life is bracketed by earlier artists (twins Thomas and Henry Vaughan) and later ones (Robert Frank, David Jones), as well as by politician Jeremy Thorpe. These figures are all related to the bleak landscape of the Wales/England border, where 25 suicides in England's defense industry have recently happened. Provocative ideas regarding the permeability of time can be teased out of these stories, but not without difficulty. Occasional blasts of outrageous humor enliven; biographies of the myriad figures in this Byzantine tale are appended. Recommended for libraries whose readers are familiar with Sinclair's earlier work and those who wish to immerse themselves in postmodernism.Judith Kicinski, Sarah Lawrence Coll. Lib., Bronxville, NY
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By D. P. Birkett on January 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It contains writing good enough to merit five stars but the confused plot makes it tough to read through. It helps to have read a few of the reviews first. Skipping to page 297 and reading the last part of the book first also makes it more understandable. Get some maps of South Wales and South-West England and then you're almost ready to read the book. You may notice that the the reviews have different versions of what it's about. I would say it's mainly about people trying to establish communes in Wales, and perhaps about the fate of utopian/religious communities in general and the relation between Wales and England. The main plot, told in the first person it about the author travelling from London to Hay-on Wye, on the Welsh border, which is itself a kind of commune, a town of used bookstores, to research the life of Walter Savage Landor. He has an affair with a woman called Prudence. He returns to london, and then learns that his father, a doctor in Wales, has died, and has to go back to Wales. On the way back he is falsely accused of having murdered Prudence and then incarcerated in a mental hospital. In the final chapters (which are more coherent) he is restored to sanity and there are reminiscnces of his boyhood in Wales.
The characters Dryfeld and Silverfish, the crooked bookdealers, who are travelling from London to Hay on Wye in the first chapters, later disappear from the book. The Kaporal plot is entirely separate and is mainly told in extracts from Kaporal's tapes (This part is also first person, so there are two separate first person narrators). These are partially explained after page 345 in "Files Recovered from Kaporal's Caravan"
It's full of literary allusions, especially to Anglo-Welsh writers who lived in the border area.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Myers VINE VOICE on February 28, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Right. So, here we have a narrative of sorts about a tower that was never built (only planned by a somewhat obscure literary figure, Walter Savage Landor - though perhaps the least obscure of the many authors to whom the author alludes herein) about an author planning to write a novel that it turns out he can't write. It's set in Wales- er, mostly, sort of, a bit in London too. According to the book, "Wales is the perfect locale. An hour's tramp would lead the most vacant optimist to thoughts of suicide." Thus, what we have is a wandering pilgrimage set in richly allusive, delightfully funny at times prose - prose which only someone steeped in all things obscurely literary or the omniscient cineaste (I was surprised that the reviews failed to mention how much the book owes to obscure films, lighting techniques etc.)can fully appreciate. Also, and this really cannot be overstated, we have a sort of dandyish form of what the French refer to as a nostalgia de la boue. Sinclair loves wending his way through all the contemporary muck of today's Britain in search of the muck of past, forgotten (admittedly unjustly so in many cases) poets, literary figures of all sorts, and pieces of rare filmography. - I suppose you can stop here if this sort of thing doesn't appeal to you.

But this faithful and appreciative reviewer shall trundle on. Something must be said here about the fad of "psychogeography" which Sinclair has helped to inspire. A great deal of literary London is, as I write this review, under the spell of it, due to the highly articulate proselyte and author Will Self. Unfortunately, Self, whilst an eloquent orator, simply can't write well; and I keep wondering when the English press is going to come to its senses.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John L Murphy TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 5, 2005
Format: Paperback
You need to invest considerable time and effort to benefit from this novel. It's not a quick read, and quite dense in parts. Fans of post-modern fractured looks at Britain presumably know what they'll encounter here. Those, like myself, with less experience with the likes of not only Sinclair but Moorcock, Ackroyd, & Chris Petit (whose The Psalm Killer is a great take on the Irish Troubles in 90s Belfast) may find it a tough slog.

In parts, notably the few pages on post-Thatcher Wales and the episodes on the poet-artist David Jones in his stay with Eric Gill at Capel-y-ffin, the relatively straightforward tale telling and powerful descriptions work wonders. But the greater tale of Kaporal and his pursuit of disgraced politician Jeremy Thorpe, along with the suicides in the West Country and the mixing in of Sinclair's own Landor-ing tries at a novel and his own semi-autobiographed childhood, make for less than knockout fiction, over the course of 350 pp.

The trouble is that, as Sinclair's clever enough to incorporate (285) a character who critiques accurately Sinclair's faults as a writer, is that Sinclair seems too self-satisfied to keep on meandering in the same groove. A mish-mash of events rather than an attempt to learn from them, the ultimate laziness of Sinclair, masked as a Borgesian or Burroughian exercise in the nature of unreliable truth & fiction, seems tired and listless far too often. My three rather than two stars are credit to the effort Sinclair puts into many small details that work well, but even these fail to resonate beyond a few pages at a time.

This lack of quality control leaves lots of glintingly crafted needles among the prosy haystacks that'll prick your attention, but I wish there were so many more.
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