Andrew Sinclair Essay - Critical Essays

Sinclair, Andrew (Vol. 14)


Sinclair, Andrew 1935–

Sinclair, an English novelist, biographer, playwright, short story writer, screenwriter, and critic, is a versatile author who has written satire, comedy, travelogues, and social-historical dramas. His works reveal a combination of contemporary American and Gothic English influences. (See also CLC, Vol. 2, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 9-12, rev. ed.)

Lee T. Lemon

Andrew Sinclair's Magog, sequel to Gog, might just be one of the best novels of the past few years. The earlier book was a stumbling romp through the history and mythology of the British Isles, conducted by Gog—in his contemporary incarnation an educated and wealthy but naive Englishman whose memories include those of his mythical and historical ancestors. British history, Celtic mythology, Blake's Prophetic Books, and the Anglo-Saxon and Norman invasions get jumbled together in the journey that Gog—who starts the novel as an amnesiac—makes from Northern England to London. But in Gog, Sinclair is in control of neither his materials nor his style, so what could have been a magnificently...

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Donald Davie

[In "Dylan Thomas: No Man More Magical"] Sinclair has written a much more responsible book than its format and its blurbs seem meant to suggest; and I imagine many a reader, seduced by the glossy photographs and, on the dust jacket, "the best lyric poet of his age … the greatest lyric poet of his age," will feel cheated by Sinclair's mostly sober and judicious narrative. He supplies no colorful roustabout anecdotes and delivers instead such chastening judgments as "he was a poet of the villa and the family," or, "if his role of the enfant terrible was essentially false, yet he played it to its death and his own." In fact, Sinclair is in some ways altogether too circumspect; because he sets his sights so...

(The entire section is 554 words.)

Robert Forrey

Jack [a biography of Jack London] is no dull, stuffily written biography; Sinclair combines the readability of a journalist with the erudition of an academic critic. If there is a serious fault with the book, it is that it lacks adequate focus or a consistently informing thesis. Mr. Sinclair tends to be rather eclectic in his intellectual approach—a Freudian insight or generality here, a pharmacological opinion there, a conventional literary judgment in another place…. [It] does lead—this admiration for London—to occasional weak positions, such as saying Joseph Noel's Footloose in Arcadia "is the source of nearly all of the scandal about Jack's life." This is the kind of view one might expect...

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James Monaco

[John Ford's] brash patriotism seems simplistic now—as do many of his films (still regarded by many as the height of Hollywood art). But the sentiments were deeply felt, and honest, and in the end informed by some compassionate values. Ford remains a very testy character: the sort of artist who requires an apologia pro vita sua rather than a straight biography.

Andrew Sinclair, novelist, historian and filmmaker, has provided just that in "John Ford."… The picture that emerges is problematic, as was the man, but in the end affectionate. Ford's life was writ large, and Mr. Sinclair rises to the challenge, spinning his yarn with less blarney than you might expect. (p. 20)


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Blake Morrison

[There] can hardly have been a more demonic possession than that which afflicts Ernest Albert Pons, the central figure in Andrew Sinclair's new novel [The Facts in the Case of E. A. Poe]. Pons, a publisher's reader rather than an academic, has not only devoured every word written by Edgar Allan Poe, he believes in his more extreme moments that he actually is Poe—Poe, that is, reborn in the 20th century….

Andrew Sinclair has always believed in the need to get close to his subjects or characters: when writing Gog he roughed it near Hadrian's Wall just as his protagonist had to; and in his 1977 study Jack he spoke of the 'passion' which Jack London had inspired in him. The...

(The entire section is 390 words.)

Paul Ableman

[The Facts in the Case of E. A. Poe] is a rich and fascinating hybrid work—part fiction and part biography. Its hold on the reader stems, at least in part, from its use of one of the most successful of all literary formulae: the quest….

The interplay of fact and fiction is complicated in itself but Mr Sinclair further complexifies a slight … book by making Pons a Brooklyn Jew, haunted by survivor's guilt at having escaped the holocaust in which most of his family perished. Mr Sinclair works hard to make this theme seem a natural extension of the material but the effort shows. The main strands of this book are really twisted together by intellectual force….

The bulk of...

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Hermione Lee

'No biographer can dare to describe Poe's state of mind better than he did himself. They can only hope to discern parts of their own identity in his.' Thus speaks 'Ernest Albert Pons,' the 'author' of Andrew Sinclair's ingenious and claustrophobic hybrid, part biography, part pastiche, part psychoanalysis [The Facts in the Case of E. A. Poe].

Pons's prose is as lush and frantic as Poe's, and he borrows freely from Poe's frenzied narrators: 'True!—nervous—very, very dreadfully nervous I have been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?' The unease which that tone of voice raises in all readers of Poe (who have, as it were, to go mad for the duration of the story) is cunningly...

(The entire section is 317 words.)