Nathan "N.R." Gaddis's Reviews > Jerusalem

Jerusalem by Alan Moore
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bookshelves: too-big-to-knot, unreadababble, 2018-gelassen

Well then. A paucity of stars if it concerns the level of my 'enjoyment'. More than a paucity of stars for the object, that is, for those of whom we can say, At least people are reading this kind of book. I mean, it's a good einsteigs novel into that realm of the big fat brainy erudite digressive mess of a fictional artifact. And that's not altogether a bad thing. Kind of like The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet for YA, should maybe Jerusalem for the comic book and fantasy set. So for form/structure it makes the grade. For content and prose, not so much. Let's take a (brief) look.

And really I think that's all there's really to admire about it. Moore takes on the meganovel, the maximalist challenge and it really does look like one. It looks like one. Everything of course is circulating around the borough of Northampton but too the narrative pov circulates among the cast of characters, their own wanderings allowing us to glimpse encounters between two and episodes among several from varied perspectives. This is kind of nice. But of course there's an overlayered samey-ness to it all, the samey prose and the same wandering through streets and streets and other synonyms of streets, the whole map thing reiterated ; you can literally retrace each character's steps through their Northampton wanderings (literally) ;; and the only misc back-of-the-book thing we are offered is a Northampton map which (I usually read every page of a novel including copyright) I proudly say I nary but glanced at. It's a literalistic failure it is. And so every character is doing the exact same wandering as every other character and they are all pretty much rendered in the same literalistic prose. There is of course some variation in voice and tone from one character to another, but overall you get Moore (of course, but more below). And so the real formalistic performance gets held back until the Third (of three) Part in which each chapter is rendered in some different form--the famous Lucia chapter rendered in (a kind of) Finneganese, a Private Dick chapter rendered all in cliches, a play (featuring an unidentifiable Samuel Beckett), a song/poem, and things of like measure. It's the good stuff. But it comes too late. By this time you've read 2/3 of the novel with nothing to keep you going but the rumor that the Lucia chapter will blow your socks off.

So then. The content. I really could not have cared less for the content. This is of course famously 'subjective'. But I'm not that interested in Northampton nor in working class nostalgia (kind of) and Moore's philosophical-metaphysical axe is just irritatingly a non-starter. As to Northampton, the borough functions as the protagonist of the novel but for this reader it came to little more than geographical cruft. Every street, every square, every building, every dog turd (that one's actually a nice touch!) is painstakingly and precisely identified to the point that you could use the novel itself as a map for your own (tourist) wanderings around Northampton. But I'm not interested in doing that. I'm sure if you literally mapped out every step of every character around every corner of every street you might get some new insight into the novel ; or maybe just be having fun with it. But it's unfortunate for one's main character to be built entirely of cruft (when this is clearly not the intention).

And as to Moore's famous Eternalism, which he nearly always daftly puts into the mouth of some character who is appropriately stoned, is either Freshman tosh or Medieval dross. Basically it comes down to the claim that the dimension of our experience known as time is actually just a fourth dimension of space. Time is reduced to spatiality. And Moore enacts this literal spatialization of time in the novel, the long and hair=pullingly stupid vision of his heaven that takes up all of Part Two. What's wrong with this view? [the result of this view is of course that there is no free will and all our actions are pre=determined, which you might find objectionable, but it merely follows from the initial step of spatializing time]. Well, first, it's reductionistic, assumes that space is more primordial than time. And the step involved in reducing time to space makes appeal to some putative 'higher' consciousness whose experience reveals the 'truth' (that time is really space). This is dumb and I'm not interested in spelling it out any further. But second, and most interesting for the novel reader, is that it is performatively contradicted. Every piece of information we are provided with as our characters experience this heaven of spatialized time is provided temporally because the characters experience this no-time heaven temporally. Not only does the spatialization of time result in determinism, it eliminates experience (unless somehow you can conceive of a non-temporal experience which Moore clearly cannot ; but it'd be meaningless anyway). And of course since modern theoretical physics (Moore makes some appeal to science to back up his view) is an experience, something humans have accomplished in their temporal existence, the foundation upon which this putative Eternalism is built upon, well, it falls (trust me). This is the advantage of the phenomenological tradition--it takes our experience (life world) seriously and does not engage in fantasies of 'higher' consciousness. [this has not been a rigorous philosophical take=down of Moore's Eternalism. His mere mentioning the name Ouspensky twice is enough to take him no more seriously on this point than A*n R*and on anything]

I know it's not sophisticated to describe a philosophical position as 'dumb' ; just take it as me reporting from the field of my experience of reading this novel. [the performative contradiction is on every page, so right there that it's author sees it no more readily than his own glasses on his nose]

And so for the prose. Let's be positive first. There is something of the big and the fat to it ; not much, but he does get some windey sentences in there and of course we have to give him some credit for the performances in Part Three. But for the most part what you get is every noun its adjective and every verb its adverb. Which results then in a very picture-centric prose. Everything is picture picture picture. As if he should've chosen a more visual medium for this project. There ends up being an uncanny rhythm to this adj-noun/adv-verb overdose, but it's just so pictoral. And fittingly of course. Not just because Moore is a comic book guy, but his thinking itself is a picture thinking. Picture prose. In Hegel, the stage just before philosophy (which is thinking the concept, thinking conceptually) comes religion which is characterized as 'picture thinking'. Which is how Moore relates to his Eternalism appropriately enough. The thing to note here is that for Hegel both philosophy and religion have the same content, take the same object as their object (although the object is changed accordingly). Moore takes his Eternalism religiously in this sense (just like Tom Robbins takes his Easternism religiously) ; were he to take it philosophically (conceptually) we would see more movement of thought, some distance from the position rather than an immediate embrace of it, something more like what we get regarding paranoia in Gravity's Rainbow (is Pynchon really a paranoid? it's undecidable). In other words, unlike the prose in, say, Women and Men where we can see the full movement of thinking, in Moore we merely have a picture grasped in words. Further illustrative of my claim here is what happens repeatedly in the Part Two (up in 'heaven)--a character (usually the three year old protag) encounters some totally unfamiliar and baffling object ; the object is first described in all its bizarreness and then immediately the object and its function etc is explained, thoroughly and without ambiguity, to the three year old (yes, a three year old, but Moore technically slips out of that noose on this point). Describe explain, describe explain, repeat.

Okay so let's wrap this painful exercise up. The structure/form of the novel is promising. The content, both Northampton and Eternalism, is of no interest to me. The prose is a picture prose. I was expecting much more. And it could be salvaged for my interest and enjoyment, but to do so would require more than the proverbial editor. It would involve a revisioning (taking a greater distance from his beloved heaven=position) and rewriting. But so what if it's not a novel I got off on? Is it a novel for you? If you're here reading this because you are familiar with my reading habits and proclivities and predispositions then I'd say, Don't bother ; there are better Beach and Lite Reads. If you are here because Alan Moore, I'd say, Please, don't mind me! You might really dig it. And but I'd just add, if you do dig it, drop me a line ; there are a lot (a lot) more of these mega maximalist visionary novels out there in the ether you've never heard of and many/most of them are even better (Against the Day just to give you one title).





________
The Kirkus review ::
https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-re...

"Mind-meld James Michener, Charles Dickens, and Stephen King....[which is a common enough way to id a heck of a lot of todays' lit=fic? should we call it "an enTartation review"? ....all the way to the headscratcher] ....Magisterial: an epic that outdoes Danielewski, Vollmann, Stephenson, and other worldbuilders in vision and depth."

Nowhere close to as inventive as Danielewski, not close to the precise thinking of Vollmann, and much more irritating than Stephenson.

I mean, god bless you Mr Moore, but in the year of Bottom's Dream, I just can't see myself quite there yet. And speaking of Jerusalem, anyone reading Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land?
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Reading Progress

September 17, 2014 – Shelved
September 17, 2014 – Shelved as: i-want-money
September 17, 2014 – Shelved as: too-big-to-knot
December 26, 2016 – Shelved as: unreadababble
June 18, 2017 – Shelved as: checks-in-the-mail
June 21, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
January 30, 2018 – Started Reading
January 30, 2018 –
page 0
0.0% "Let's do this.

[but first I have to take the cat to the vet]"
January 30, 2018 –
page 38
3.0% "“This had better be much more than good.”"
January 31, 2018 –
page 90
7.11% "Day Two's reading...."
January 31, 2018 –
page 206
16.27% "Mark this lovely (short) paragraph."
February 1, 2018 –
page 224
17.69% "Day three reading begins....."
February 2, 2018 –
page 352
27.8% "Begin day four.

[I'm sticking around for some stuff coming up I hear is good stuff]"
February 2, 2018 –
page 392
30.96% "Even in heaven we get the geographical cruft."
February 2, 2018 –
page 430
33.97% "A lot of description and a lot of explaining."
February 3, 2018 –
page 462
36.49% "Getting his out of my system ::

This is down=right bad."
February 3, 2018 –
page 500
39.49% "Drink every time he writes “Street” or a synonym."
February 4, 2018 –
page 512
40.44% "Day six.

Here's hoping it goes a little better than yederday. That was a poor scene."
February 4, 2018 –
page 580
45.81% "Both a Coover and a Zizek arrive this week. I'll get a break from this Moore."
February 5, 2018 –
page 590
46.6% "Day seven.

It's become crystal clear ; I'd overestimated what kind of book this was going to be. My fault ; my fault!"
February 5, 2018 –
page 633
50.0% "Half way...."
February 5, 2018 –
page 715
56.48% "Enter Lucia Joyce!"
February 6, 2018 –
page 778
61.45% "Day eight.

This is a long graphic novel."
February 6, 2018 –
page 805
63.59% "Finally got out of Mansoul. Thank gods."
February 6, 2018 –
page 884
69.83% "The Lucia chapter!!"
February 8, 2018 –
page 884
69.83% "Day nine.

Lucia Joyce."
February 9, 2018 –
page 933
73.7% "Day 9.2 (just to wrap up the Lucia chapter).

You know, it really is a delicious performance ; but it does put a fine point on what exactly was going on in Finnegans Wake. Here, every one of Moore's sentences can be read directly back into English ; with many randy winks and nods and innuendos floating across the top. You can't do that with Finnegans Wake ;; the entire syntax is Wakean, it is a night language."
February 10, 2018 –
page 933
73.7% "Day ten.

Let's get this wrapped up."
February 10, 2018 –
page 1000
78.99% "Fans will be fans ::

Annotations for Jerusalem
https://alanmoorejerusalem.wordpress...."
February 10, 2018 –
page 1059
83.65% "adj adv adj adv repeat etc etc"
February 10, 2018 –
page 1089
86.02% "All of the ‘philosophy’ in here is totally stoner philosophy."
February 10, 2018 –
page 1100
86.89% "166 pages to go."
February 11, 2018 –
page 1113
87.91% "Day eleven.

And it gets worse. A “hard boiled” chapter of every headsplitting cliche."
February 12, 2018 –
page 1234
97.47% "Final Day."
February 12, 2018 – Shelved as: 2018-gelassen
February 12, 2018 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-20 of 20 (20 new)

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Nathan "N.R." Gaddis And today it's "#1 New Release in Metaphysical & Visionary Fiction" over at the ama=zone ;; I don't know what M&V Fiction is, maybe it's magical realism that speaks graphic=novelese ;; but I do suspect it has nothing whatsoever to do with Metaphysics.


Nathan "N.R." Gaddis I do want to read this though. But maybe not til after City on Fire.


Nathan "N.R." Gaddis And after the SIX Chinese classics.


message 4: by Nick (new) - added it

Nick Im not sure this reviewer read even half the book.


message 5: by Liam (new) - added it

Liam I know Harold Bloom loves Clarel and I've always been tempted to give it a try, but I'll probably reread Moby Dick before I ever get to it.


message 6: by Nick (new) - added it

Nick Craske 'Magisterial: an epic that outdoes Danielewski, Vollmann, Stephenson, and other worldbuilders in vision and depth.'


message 7: by Tom (new)

Tom Willard What do you think? I am skeptical about this one, mostly because I am pretentious and doubt a graphic novelist can write a great novel.


Nathan "N.R." Gaddis Tom wrote: "What do you think? I am skeptical about this one, mostly because I am pretentious and doubt a graphic novelist can write a great novel."

You're pretty close to being on the same page I'm on. I'm not at all sold yet ; but waiting for something to come along.


message 9: by Tom (new)

Tom Willard Ha, alright, let me know if it does.


message 10: by Aiden (new)

Aiden Heavilin Terrific review.

I'm told if you trace all the character's paths on the provided map, it spells out a poem that describes the meaning of life.


Nathan "N.R." Gaddis Aiden wrote: "I'm told if you trace all the character's paths on the provided map, it spells out a poem that describes the meaning of life. "

Well. That's disappointing! ; )


message 12: by Mark (new) - rated it 2 stars

Mark William Perfect Nathan. You’ve expanded my justifications for not liking Jerusalem... Given all of this, why did Matthew MacIntosh and Louis Armand use Moore quotes for their books!? I sense the lingering aftertaste of his awful beard trimmings flavored my initial reactions of themystery.doc, which were thankfully righted after GR inspired education, and sent me running from even contemplating The Combinations.


message 13: by Mark (new) - rated it 2 stars

Mark William Ah, hang on. A correction. Alan Moore’s review of themystery.doc was used for its promo and a GR review of The Combinations mentions Alan Moore. Anyway, enough traumatic memories to make me shudder...


Nathan "N.R." Gaddis Mark wrote: "Given all of this, why did Matthew MacIntosh and Louis Armand use Moore quotes for their books!?"

eh, I think it's just a fact of publishing, Big Name Blurbs. But I can say both the MacIntosh and the Armand are worlds above Moore.

The weird thing for me is that the other Moore (Steven) said he liked Jerusalem but quit The Combinations and didn't care much for the content of themystery.doc (while adoring its form). For me I guess its nice having some differences with one's favored taste=maker.

[btw, I'm not seeing (Alan) Moore's blurb for The Combinations]

But do give The Combinations a go if you have enough space on the tbr ; it's a classic mess, but one I enjoyed loitering among.


Nathan "N.R." Gaddis Mark wrote: "Ah, hang on. A correction. Alan Moore’s review of themystery.doc was used for its promo and a GR review of The Combinations mentions Alan Moore. Anyway, enough traumatic memories to make me shudder..."

ah, that clarifies things. It's kind of like finding a Stephen King blurb on a book...


message 16: by Aiden (last edited Feb 13, 2018 01:35PM) (new)

Aiden Heavilin Nathan "N.R." wrote: "ah, that clarifies things. It's kind of like finding a Stephen King blurb on a book... "

at least Moore really reads and enjoys good fiction; he's one of the only major writers I've seen mention Gilbert Sorrentino as a great American author.

Meanwhile Stephen King referred to William Gaddis as dull and overrated. (I'm actually not a huge fan of Gaddis, but how can someone that little-known be overrated? that's like saying The Combinations "lives up to the hype".)


Nathan "N.R." Gaddis Aiden wrote: "at least Moore really reads and enjoys good fiction; he's one of the only major writers I've seen mention Gilbert Sorrentino as a great American author."

Hell yeah! Recognition where due!


message 18: by Mark (new) - rated it 2 stars

Mark William Surely the hype we create around here has huge cultural sway! Also, Alan Moore did mention in his NYT By the Book interview that he was very excited to be delving into David Foster Wallace, a recent discovery for him. So definitely, credit where credit’s due.


message 19: by Richard (new)

Richard Derus And as to Moore's famous Eternalism, which he nearly always daftly puts into the mouth of some character who is appropriately stoned, is either Freshman tosh or Medieval dross.
I<3U


Nathan "N.R." Gaddis Richard wrote: "I<3U "

And a heart right back at you my good fellow Moore=suffer'r!


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