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COMICS GURU ALAN MOORE PRODUCES JOYCEAN NOVEL

Jerusalem boxed setNobirdy Avair Soar Anywing to Eagle It

With the publication last winter of his extravagantly long and complex prose novel, Jerusalem, Alan Moore announced that he is planning to retire from the other medium in which he has worked for so long, the one that brought him fame — comic books. But not, it seems, right away.

The creator of such medium-altering works as Watchmen, V for Vendetta, From Hell, The Killiong Joke and The League of Extraordinary Gentleman said, at a press conference about Jerusalem, “I have about 250 pages of comics left in me,” and he may produce them in Cinema Purgatorio and Providence from Avatar, and the final book of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. That, however, would fall short of his life-long goal, “to do a large work on a large scale.”

He plans to keep working, but to focus on films and literary novels, still aiming at that large opus.

Jerusalem, a nearly 1,300-page work of words with no pictures, presumably is a milestone on his road to that goal. It took Moore ten years to complete.

“Jerusalem,” says Andrew Ervin, an author and critic writing in the Washington Post, “revels in the idea of eternalism, the theory that past, present and future exist all at once. Everything that has ever happened in Northampton is still happening. Everything that eventually will happen there is already happening now. Amid that chronological and ontological maelstrom, Moore’s characters must reckon with the occasional slippage between their town and a shadowy parallel realm known as Mansoul. From Mansoul, the deceased can watch all of the goings-on in the town.”

The book is obviously, self-consciously, Joycean (perhaps as homage and, in some places, as parody).

“Yes, yes, very much,” burbles David Franich at ew.com. “Many of Jerusalem’s chapters follow the life-in-a-day structure of [James Joyce’s famous] Ulysses, with characters thoughtfully perambulating around a few square blocks in Northampton. Then you get to the part when Joyce’s daughter Lucia has a sexual encounter with pop idol Dusty Springfield— said encounter witnessed by actor Patrick McGoohan and the balloon-monster from McGoohan’s tv show ‘The Prisoner.’ ... Did I mention that whole chapter is written in the style of Joyce’s infamously post-coherent masterpiece Finnegans goddamn Wake??? Sample line, pulled from the middle of a random sentence:

“... Lucia askplains dashy’s expictured beckett d’main how’s o’ the massylum in spacetime for tea an’ dusks her newd frond four dimections to delaytr roaches of the ninespleen severties…”

Hence the subtitle of this article, ripped from Finnegans Wake.

“The novel doesn’t have a through-line plot arc any more than do Hieronymus Bosch’s hell-scapes,” said Ervin. “But we learn a great deal about the Vernal and Warren families,” the chief characters (other than the town itself) of the book. Another Joycean kinship.

AlanMoore“That maximalist, kitchen-sink approach accounts for many of its pleasures,” Ervin concludes: “There are unexpected twists and frequent hairpin changes in mood. What makes it truly shine, however, is its insistence that our workaday world might not be quite as mundane as we think. Lurking in the corners of the ceiling, we might just find a portal to a different realm. The imagination Moore displays here and the countless joys and surprises he evokes make Jerusalem a massive literary achievement for our time — and maybe for all times simultaneously.”

Well, that may be a bit much. A bit too Joycean perhaps.

Moore himself, in an interview with the New York Times, sees the book as filling “a need for an alternative way of looking at life and death. I have a lot of very dear rationalist, atheist friends who accept that having a higher belief system is good for you — you probably live longer if you have one. You’re probably happier. So I wanted to come up with a secular theory of the afterlife. As far as I can see, and as far as Einstein could see, what I describe in the book looks like a fairly safe option in terms of its actual possibility.”

 

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

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