"Then it is dark; a night where kings in golden suits ride elephants over the mountains." - John Cheever

Monday, January 29, 2007

Hawksmoor: "the Devil's Architect"

Like most popular culture, I've come to this pretty late on, but I read Peter Ackroyd's "Hawksmoor" last week - his gothic thriller based around the six churches designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor. It's intriguing rather than hugely enjoyable and ultimately collapses under the weight of its own symbolic structure, but it is worth googling the largely bogus mythologizing, psychogeographic ramblings and high-brow Da Vinci Code-type conspiracies that form part of the Hawksmoor story, which Alan Moore and Iain Sinclair have also made use of in their work. This Guardian article has a more sober take on the churches.

10 comments:

john said...

Good stuff. I remember regularly seeing the spire of St George's Bloomsbury from the top of the no. 38 as it rounded Centerpoint to go down Charing Cross Road. Probably no longer possible if they're running a bendy bus on that route...

Have you read From Hell by Alan Moore? It's da bomb re the whole Hawksmoor, Freemasonry, East London noir nexus. Better footnotes than even a Flashman novel.

Colin said...

Didn't they make a film of From Hell with Johnny Depp in it? Anyone seen it? Did it carry the Hawksmoor stuff over into that?

I like all that Ian Sinclair, Will Self, Patrick Keiller, Bill Drummond psychogeography stuff. Provides an interesting way of looking at places and history from a different perspective. But at the same time, I can't help thinking that its mostly nonsense - especially the occultish type stuff. Ley lines!

john said...

They did make a film of From Hell but apparently it's not much good. Moore has actually refused to let his name be used in connection with Hollywood adaptations of his work.

In general I find all the London psychogeography stuff good and stimulating - in limited doses. Does tend to get a bit dense and overblown, I agree.

With regard to the more occult'ish stuff Alan Moore's stock response is along the lines that the Gods (and magic etc) indubutably do exist inside people's heads.

Tom said...

mYes, I saw From Hell on tv last year and thought it a bit disappointing, though you could tell that there was something more interesting behind it.

The Alan Moore reply is a good one and seems broadly in line, at least as I understand it, with Ackroyd, Sinclair etc's position on all this occultish stuff: that they don't actually believe it, but they still take it incredibly seriously.

I guess it provides a metaphor and a subversive world view by which they can understand and experience London. As Colin says, it does provide quite an interesting and poetic perspective, even if you also know it's largely nonsense.

Tom said...

Btw, I saw another Alan Moore film "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" on Film Four over the weekend. Now that really was nonsense!

john said...

The League of Extraordinary Gentleman graphic novels are excellent as well btw, though much more of a lightweight entertainment than FH.

Colin said...

John - any views on Neil Gaiman? I got one of his books at Fopp for a couple of quid and read it at christmas.

john said...

I've read some Neil Gaiman. He's good, and covers similar territory a lot of the time but doesn't really grab me in the same way.

Are Fopp good for graphic novels? I generally get stuff out of the library. I did own a copy of From Hell but someone nicked it...

Colin said...

I think they do stock some - but this was a conventional novel. I know what you mean, it had some good ideas in it, but didn't quite come together I thought. Who's that bloke you really rate? (Did you mention him in your Seattle museum post?)

john said...

Neal Stephenson. Cryptonomicon is amazing. His Baroque Cycle is good too though there's an awful lot of it. I'd sort of taken a break halfway through the first volume then the book got packed up when we moved house. It's now in a cardboard box in my attic...