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Slow Chocolate Autopsy : Incidents from the Notorious Career of Norton, Prisoner of London Paperback – 1997
All Books, All the Time
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"Slow Chocolate Autopsy" is a collection of twelve short stories concerning the enigmatic Norton. Known as "The Prisoner of London", he is trapped within the space of the London city limits, but not in time. However, those hoping for an adventure similar to those of that other famous British time traveler (Who?) may be disappointed.
Norton doesn't move through time so much as just appear at pivotal points of London history.
Iain Sinclair never states outright what's happening. He relies heavily on historical reference and local slang to convey his settings. Dropping tight bursts of staccato clues, he lets the reader puzzle it out. But regardless of whether it's the 70's or the 1700's, Norton is there.
People will either enjoy Sinclair's writing style or find it inaccessible. He frequently interchanges metaphor with imagery and it's difficult to determine when the switch occurs. The prose is minimalist and truncated so this is not a book one can scan. Hugely important detail can be missed if every word is not carefully read.
Yet it's that sheer efficiency I appreciated the most. Where other authors might use sweeping descriptive paragraphs, Sinclair can convey the same mood, tone and imagery in a single well-crafted sentence.
Four of the stories are mini graphic novels drawn by Dave McKean (of "Batman: Arkham Asylum" fame). His strange collage of impressionist drawings over distorted photos compliment Sinclair's tone beautifully.
Overall, I found this books to be almost like a Zen koan...seemingly incomprehensible at first, but more revealing with subsequent reads and contemplation.
It's not for everyone, but anyone willing to take the risk will be taken on a trippy, mind-bending journey.
Oh...and yes. The title is explained in one of the stories.