Friday, October 1, 2021

Shadows of London - Jonathan Wood

Jonathan Wood is the author and editor of a sequence of journals, chapbooks and serialised fictions issued from the late Eighties and on into the Nineties that were visionary and apocalyptic, and shared with Arthur Machen a keen interest in the mystical undercurrents of London. He has continued to explore these and related matters in his literary work since.

The modern, cosmopolitan, mercantile city meshes at every step with another city composed of myth, arcane history and unsolved mysteries. The tube map as a kabbalistic diagram, the upper rooms of obscure pubs as the headquarters of occult sects, the cellars of bookshops as nexuses of textual synchronicity. There is London and there is ShadowLondon.

Shadows of London, sub-titled A Whispered Nightshade for After Years (Zagava) is a further exploration of the secret city. The author modestly describes its contents as ‘fragments and meditations or prose poetry meanders and rituals’. But here are intensely concentrated observations whose brevity has the same distilled quality to be found in Hubert Crackanthorpe’s Vignettes, that 1890s slim volume of Embankment lamplight and the satanic glitter of fallen fruit.

It as a work that notices fine, fugitive details: fallen leaves, footsteps, children’s babble, clock chimes, the activities of magpies, the shuttered office of a ticket-collector.

The book evokes the brooding atmosphere before the fiery riots of 1978, when the author had recently come to live in the city, the ‘gnostic modernism’ of the new high rise architecture casting its shadows over the city, and a visit to a subterranean cinema in quest of the uncensored version of a film by certain cult art-provocateurs.

Shadows of London is a contemporary London Adventure, as rich and ruminatory, as deep and diversionary, as labyrinthine and lapidary, as Machen’s book, yet told in Jonathan Wood’s distinctive Armagnac style. It is available in a limited first edition of 199 hardback copies, and also in paperback.

(Mark Valentine)



  1. Dear Mark,

    Thank you so much for your rich and insightful distillation regarding Shadows of London. I am sincerely grateful for your review which reads as if it were part of the book itself....which of course, it is. It becomes folded into the long London shadows that are cast and which prevail.

    My very great thanks to you and of course to Jonas, the magician of Zagava. I will be conjuring further Ludd-based reveries.

    Best wishes
    Jonathan Wood

    (Using 'anon' as I sometimes have problems using Google on this device)

  2. Does anything close to a bibliography for Mr. Wood exist online?
    -Jeff Matthews

    1. Hi Jeff,

      I am currently working (albeit slowly) on a complete checklist of all my output, including all material published by others and items that I self-published stretching way back, along with all Arbor Vitae Press books. Each item comes with a contextual description as well to give it a personal flavour of background and period. I aim to complete it by the end of next year and then hopefully it can find a publisher. Mark's introduction to The Delicate Shoreline beckons us (Zagava 2019) does a fine job in setting out the broad range of material I have been lucky enough to compose and publish. I don't think there is anything online at present beyond the bare bones.

      Best wishes
      Jonathan Wood