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Sinclair, Clive

Entry updated 20 September 2021. Tagged: Author.

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(1948-2018) UK author best known for his first novel, Bibliosexuality (1973), which not quite fantastically describes a neurotic condition involving sexual intimacy with books, as conveyed through an ultimately indecipherable narrative liaison between the author and the conveyor or victim of excessive bibliophily (see Jorge Luis Borges; Postmodernism and SF). Hearts of Gold (coll 1979) and Bedbugs (coll 1982) contain some fantasy and supernatural fiction, the first including "Uncle Vlad", a Vampire tale, and the second including "Genesis", which features a fallen angel (see Supernatural Creatures). Generally, though, his stories make use of fable elements as an estranging device, and tend to hover along the peripheries of the fantastic.

Sinclair's later novels are various. Those engaging in some of the manoeuvres of Fantastika include Cosmetic Effects (1989), whose protagonist is turned into a human bomb, with potentially devastating effects in the Israel/Palestine conflict, though his experiences after he has in effect exploded, events which occupy most of the text, are either posthumous or represent an elongation of the last instant of his life [for Posthumous Fantasy see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below; also see Ambrose Bierce, for "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" (1890)]. Augustus Rex (1992), narrated by Beelzebub, tells how August Strindberg (1849-1912) sells his soul to the Devil (see Gods and Demons), and is resurrected in 1961 in a fantasticated Scandinavia, which he soon transforms before slipping out of the Devil's clutches into genuine death. Meet the Wife (2002) is a Fabulation during which metamorphosis-prone characters as diverse as Odysseus (see Homer), the Lone Ranger and Wyatt Earp (1848-1928) exchange Identities, intertwine into Doppelganger configurations, and engage in Sex; and Clive Sinclair's True Tales of the Wild West (2007) puts Earp to further tests as two Jewish cousins from England attempt to distinguish between truth and mythopoeisis, unsuccessfully. Some the stories in Death & Texas (coll 2014) continue Sinclair's spoofish interrogation of the roots of American culture, as do some of the essays earlier assembled in A Soap Opera from Hell: Essays on the Facts of Life and the Facts of Death (coll 1998). His last collection, Shylock Must Die (coll 2018), comprises a series of takes, some of them fantastic, on William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice (first performed circa 1598; 1600).

Sinclair's questioning attitude toward his Jewish background and the Middle East was at times controversial; his depictions of cruel Sex were increasingly criticized; these factors, together with a refusal to abandon the sharp-edged experimental texture of his fiction, tended to unduly muffle his career. He won several literary awards. Sinclair should not be confused with the entrepreneur and inventor Sir Clive Sinclair (1940-2021). [JC]

Clive John Sinclair

born London: 19 February 1948

died St Albans, Hertfordshire: 5 March 2018

works (selected)




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