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 entertaining and wise fiction becomes a verbose exercise in overworked imagination.
But Magog is a different book. Magog, in this incarnation as in the myth the practical, conniving half-brother to Gog, is not hindered by his brother's ponderous memories. He is a kind of gadfly of meaningless change, moving from a relatively high government post through assorted positions of growing power and prestige. Despite the triteness of the theme, Sinclair does a fine job of showing the reader the peculiar anguish of the successful but hollow man. By the end of the novel, Magog the manipulator has learned that time brings new and shrewder manipulators, and that one does not have to manipulate for the things which give satisfaction.
Enough good things happen along the way to keep readers of quite diverse tastes turning the pages. Sinclair does a fine job of showing the intricacies of power and has a talent for the memorable turn of phrase. I'm not sure if Magog will hold up after several more readings; if it does, Sinclair has written probably the best English fiction since Durrell's Alexandria Quartet. (pp. 83-4)
Lee T. Lemon, "'Gog' and 'Magog'," in Prairie Schooner (© 1974 by University of Nebraska Press; reprinted by permission from Prairie Schooner), Vol. XLVIII, No. 1, Spring, 1974, pp. 83-4.
[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 consistently on Thomas as a private and domestic person, we are supposed to know for ourselves about Thomas's unparalleled fame—when it started, how it grew, who helped it along, who exploited it. Firmly insisting that in the end Thomas's self-destruction can be blamed on no one but Thomas himself, Sinclair rightly resists the sentimentalists who would have it that the poet was "a victim," yet he could still have named the names of those who connived at the self-destruction, accelerated it and made show biz money out of it. By not acknowledging how it was Thomas's fame that enabled him to destroy himself, Sinclair cannot deal with what, it seems to me, is the permanent lesson of Thomas's life story—that is to say, what it can mean nowadays for a poet to be famous and popular….
If we ask what "lyric" means when Thomas is called, as he is by Sinclair, "the greatest lyric poet of his time" (in any...
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