Review: Alan Moore – “Jerusalem”

This being from the mind of Alan Moore, there are no moralities dished out in regards to sex, God, culture, and politics, but there is, however, strong elements of graphic novels, fables, Anarchy, sexuality, lingual twists and reactions against boredom.

Where language is concerned, Moore makes it clear from the start that this novel will take some turns, which he’s not unleashed in graphic novels. If he did, it’d have been weird. For example this sentence:

“On the street’s far side a gnome-like woman in a headscarf walked along beside the Upper Cross Street maisonettes with circulation-dodging fingers hooked about the handles of her plastic shopping bag.”

After reading this long book, you get into the lull of parts of the language; even though my own sentence there may seem contrived, I’ll show what I mean: first, there’s the re-use of some words, such as “effervesce”, “scintillate”, and “terpsichorean”.

Then, we have a completely different take on language:

She concides to fellow the headvoice of her deportly salvia and triter murke her why beckento deylight, certing off betune the tries with their liminous feary-luc womencrustations, hymming washy thinks white mince have been a Bleatles’ camposition, jester keep her spillits up. She fictures hersylph in a beat on a raver with dangerin tease and murmurlate spies, which is a cheeryher propersituation dunder lunardecked asilent weirdlands which in surreality she caughtusly atemps to flinder path amist.

Moore delves high and low, and yet manages to swerve throughout boredom and despair, as I felt it; there were a couple of times where I thought of giving up the book, but somewhere around page 50 I found the story about the angel to be utterly charming and beautiful:

His circumstances were so wholly unbelievable he didn’t even have the wits to scream but took another step back with one hand clapped tight across his gaping maw. At the far edges of the figure’s epic mouth, also migrated up and to the left now, dimpled cracks of mingled Ivory Black and crimson crinkled into being as the pale, foot-long lips parted and the painted angel spoke. “Theis whille beye veery haerdt foure yew” it said, sounding concerned. The ‘is’ or the essential being of this coming while as, from your viewpoint, it apparently goes by will be a sudden and extreme veer in the pathway of your heart with things that you have heard concerning a fourth angle of existence causing difficulties to arise within your mortal life, that is concluded in a graveyard where the yew trees flourish, and this will be very hard for you. Ern understood this complicated message, understood that it was somehow all squeezed down into just seven mostly unfamiliar words that had unfolded and unpacked themselves inside his thoughts, like the unwrapping of a children’s paper puzzle or a Chinese poem. Even as he struggled to absorb the content bound in this exploded sentence, the mere noise of it unravelled him. It had a fullness and dimension to its sound, compared to a whole orchestra performing in a concert hall, such as the latter might have in comparison with a tin whistle blown inside an insulated cupboard. Every note of it seemed to be spiralling away in countless fainter and more distant repetitions, the same tones at an increasingly diminished scale until these split into a myriad still smaller echoes, eddying minuscule whirlwinds made of sound that spun off into the persistent background thunderclaps and disappeared. Now that it had completed that first startling quarter turn the table-sized face seemed almost to settle down into its new configuration. Only at its edges and around the mobile mouth and eyes were particles still creeping, dots of pigment skittering in little sand-slides round the fresco’s curvature and making small adjustments to accommodate the slight and natural movements of the figure’s head, the shift of gleam and shadow on its opening and closing lips.

I most fervently felt I had to abandon the book when the stories around the children popped up, even though they weren’t delved in mirth which most are; however, Moore is more intelligent than that, and it went to show that one did good with just pushing through it all.

At times, I must confess, I skimmed part of the book, especially the chapters where poetry flailed and almost the entire chapter of made-up lingo is concerned. However, there are plenty of times where Moore’s language itself filled me up, made me think of the book as a wholly new thing, akin to how Proust and Joyce turned shit on its head in their majestic tomes of weirdness, whispered clamour and wondrous tales of the everyday.

For everyday this is, even though it’s thinly veiled by different realities, sprawling through a lot of different dimensions; it’s no wonder that Moore both mentions Wittgenstein and Einstein in this book, without wanting to sound clever. Or he could be. If he is, I think he’s doing a shit job at it.

Anyway, this book isn’t all roses. I think it suffers some, from Moore having worked so much with writing massive and hugely influential graphic novels which all claim his language, and storytelling regime. I can believe—without actually knowing—that he really wanted to write this book without just escaping the graphic novel realm. He has the money to do fuck-all and just worship Glycon, but he made this, and we’re the better for it.

For now, it’ll be a little while until I head into something like this again though, out of sheer exhaustion. The many forms and twists that this book took during its turn are enough to make a shy, bald, Buddhist reflect, and plan a mass murder. In a lot of good ways.

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