The Patrick Hamilton Appreciation Society discussion

This topic is about Jerusalem
Hamilton-esque books, authors.. > 'Jerusalem' by Alan Moore

Comments Showing 1-17 of 17 (17 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

Nigeyb | 3859 comments Mod
I saw Alan Moore give a talk on Wednesday evening (24 May 2017) and so it feels appropriate to start his recent sprawling behemoth 'Jerusalem'.

Notoriously, it runs to more than 600,000 words - and is longer than the Bible. Yikes!

The plot is simple enough. We open with Alma Warren, an artist and eccentric, whose brother Michael once nearly choked on a cough sweet and miraculously came back to life. Many years later a bonk on the noggin has allowed him to access the memories of what happened when he was between life and death. He is worried that he is going mad, which seems to be something of a family tradition, going back at least as far as his great-great-grandfather Ernest Vernall. Alma uses Michael’s memories or hallucinations or epiphanies as the inspiration for a series of paintings, and on the night of the private viewing, various lives converge en route to the gallery in Northampton district the Boroughs. There is a heroin-addicted prostitute looking for a client, a middle-aged poetaster still living with his mother, a predatory monster, a bewildered boy, a compromised council official, someone who works with refugees, a car crash. Some chapters fill in the Vernall family history; others deal with the countercultural history of Northampton: Lucia Joyce, daughter of James, confined in an asylum; John Clare and Sir Malcolm Arnold; Samuel Beckett and Thomas a Becket and a surprising amount of hymnology. There are also ghosts, often intersecting across centuries; a monk who brought a relic to Northampton as the “heart of England”, a “rough sleeper” ghost who laments the problematic logistics of ghost sex and is charged with a mission of deadly import. Finally, there are the chapters set in Moore’s most visionary mode. These are mostly associated with what happened to Michael Warren in his betwixt time: in which “Builders” play “trilliards” with human souls in a metaphysical pool hall; two Vernall spirits embark on an epic pilgrimage to the end of time; and there’s a night flight with demon king Asmodeus. The final chapter gives us Alma’s exhibition, where the titles of the painting correspond with the titles of the individual chapters in another one of the crisscrossings found throughout the novel.

The rest here..

Anyone else likely to partake?

Nigeyb | 3859 comments Mod
After the initial dream sequence which was, frankly a bit boring though enjoyably written, 'Jerusalem' really hits its stride when the two siblings meet in the pub and Michael explains to Alma how he thinks he is going mad after his accident at work.

From the Washington Post....

Over the past four decades, Alan Moore has earned a reputation — and a massive, worldwide audience — as a historian and champion of the macabre. In his legendary comics “V for Vendetta,” “Watchmen” and “From Hell,” the natural and the supernatural can be difficult to distinguish. Now, he’s published a new novel, “Jerusalem,” which is epic in scope and phantasmagoric to its briny core. It takes place over 1,000 years in the English town of Northampton, also known here as the Boroughs. It’s a hardscrabble realm teeming with painters and prostitutes, would-be poets and biblical demons. The angels play snooker with the eternal souls of the residents on the line.

“Jerusalem” 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.

Moore has divided Jerusalem into three main sections, and each could stand alone as a novel unto itself, yet together they form something extraordinary. The multi-generational story involves dozens of people, but in some regards Moore’s home town of Northampton itself serves as his primary muse and as a character in its own right. “Jerusalem” celebrates its “long tradition as a haven for religious firebrands, insurrectionists and the plain old mad.”

The novel doesn’t have a through-line plot arc any more than do Hieronymus Bosch’s hell­scapes. But we learn a great deal about the Vernal and Warren families. The artist Alma Warren and her brother Michael come across as the most realized of the ensemble. After suffering a chemical accident at work and then knocking himself unconscious, Michael begins to lose his grip on reality. Alma creates a series of mixed-media artworks inspired by his visions and prepares what will be an incendiary exhibition. Recurring themes include the sordid marriage of madness and art, the often unseen presence of practical magic in everyday life, and the ways in which history can glue together a family and a community. It takes a village to produce a village idiot.

The local asylum is full of people in similar circumstances as Michael, their fleeting glimpses of Mansoul continuing to haunt them. That nether world is closer than is immediately obvious. “Michael felt like he was floating in a rubber ring, just underneath the smoky yellow ceiling of the living room. He wasn’t certain how he’d got there and he didn’t know if he should be alarmed about the ­corner-fairy who was waving to him from the shady recesses only a few feet above.”

In Mansoul, language breaks down and then gets more or less put back together again, as Moore illustrates most acutely in a virtuosic chapter that pays homage to — and parodies — the gobbledygook of “Finnegans Wake”-era James Joyce. Moore’s own prose is always lively and rarely orthodox. He can evoke mirth and dread in equal measure. His similes want to leap from their pages. A lackluster intimate encounter ends “like an old tea towel that had been wrung out time after time until the pattern on it disappeared.” An approaching storm looked “like darkened pearls that seethed and boiled and were become a changing and fantastic swim of wrinkles.” One character thinks of a woman’s posterior as “two wrestlers full of muscles in a crush, each one in turn gaining an inch on their opponent who immediately takes it back, deadlocked so that they merely seem to heave from side by side.”

The prose sparkles at every turn, but that’s not to say it’s without flaws. Some entire chapters, particularly in the middle Mansoul section, struck me as wholly soporific. Moore also demonstrates an affinity for overwriting. I was hard-pressed to find many nouns that did not arrive man­splained with an unnecessary adjective. Here’s a typical sentence: “The big square bathroom with its plaster-rounded corners is a blunted cube of grey steam rising from the eight-foot chasm of the filling tub, an ostentatious lifeboat made from the tide-lined fibreglass.” Perhaps because he’s accustomed to communicating visually, Moore sometimes forgets that when it comes to language, less is often more. That said, the humor and wisdom and the sympathies we feel for his characters make it easy to absolve these transgressions.

The period vocabularies contribute to the rare sense of immersion, as does the sheer size of the book — almost 1,300 pages. In preparation for a long train ride, I had to take a razor knife to the spine of my copy to vivisect away the portion I’d already read so I could fit the remainder in my backpack. Fortunately, the story weighs as heavily on the mind as in the hands. “Jerusalem” is a novel of ideas about the conjunction of time and place. It’s a difficult book in all the right ways in that it brilliantly challenges us to confront what we think and know about the very fabric of existence.

That maximalist, kitchen-sink approach accounts for many of its pleasures. 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.

message 3: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 102 comments Nigeyb wrote: "I saw Alan Moore give a talk on Wednesday evening (24 May 2017) and so it feels appropriate to start his recent sprawling behemoth 'Jerusalem'.

Notoriously, it runs ..."

What sort of talk did he give Nigeyb?

message 4: by Nigeyb (last edited May 27, 2017 12:40PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nigeyb | 3859 comments Mod
Hi Ruth, It was an event based around the new John Higgs. book 'Watling Street: Travels Through Britain and Its Ever-Present Past' which has its own thread.

Alan Moore and Iain Sinclair also separately talked about history, eternalise, politics. Honestly I could listen to Alan Moore talk all day - he's an extraordinary person. There's a few talks on YouTube which will give you a good idea of what he's like. In fact here's John and Alan at last year's Odditorium event....

message 5: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 102 comments Thanks Nigeyb. I love Iain Sinclair's books about London and its characters.

Nigeyb | 3859 comments Mod
Ruth wrote: "Thanks Nigeyb. I love Iain Sinclair's books about London and its characters."

Thanks Ruth. Given that, I feel confident you'd love (as I am) the new book by John Higgs- 'Watling Street: Travels Through Britain and Its Ever-Present Past' which has its own thread.

Nigeyb | 3859 comments Mod
There's some fabulous detail in the chapter about Ernest Vernall: his family and working life in the 1860s. Sadly this is his last day as a sane man.

'Jerusalem' is essentially an epic, multi-generational saga of ordinary, working class people & it happens to have a preponderance of ghosts, angels and devils among its cast.

It is also based Alan Moore's own family history, from his great-great grandfather's visionary apocalypse to his brother Michael nearly choking to death on a cough sweet as a child. A cosmic exploration of the nature of time, existence, the afterlife and the multi-faceted universe we live in.

So far, so beguiling - I'm only about 2% through though

Nigeyb | 3859 comments Mod
Alan Moore, the reluctant graphic artist (always “comics” to the great man), is more accurately an artist, magician, film maker, illustrator, musician, poet, performer, essayist, journalist, commentator, and all round fascinating human being.

I had only read Watchmen, until now, despite habitually seeking out Moore vids on YouTube and going to listen to him in person whenever he’s in town.

At 5% in, so with the vast majority still awaiting, I am loving it. Despite the book’s heft (bigger than the Bible y’know) it is very accessible and enjoyable.

Ostensibly an epic, multi-generational saga of various generations of ordinary working class people, it is also about “everything”: esp Alan Moore’s family, Northampton, Lambeth, time, existence, the afterlife, eternalism, and the multi-faceted universe we live in and, er, everything.

I’m completely sold and can already heartily recommend it.

message 9: by Nigeyb (last edited May 29, 2017 03:05AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nigeyb | 3859 comments Mod
I should add that I am actually listening to it. It was an Audible deal of the day and, if you're tempted by listening, be reassured that the narrator is brilliant. I'm also going to get a hard copy from the library as I feel I must hold it and experience it as a physical thing too.

The Ghosts of Watling Street - Iain Sinclair, Alan Moore and John Higgs + music from Oddfellow's Casino - Spiegel Tent, Brighton Fringe, 24 May 2017

Alan Moore and John Higgs @ Watling Street: Travels Through Britain and Its Ever-Present Past event in the Spiegel Tent, Brighton Fringe, 24 May 2017

Nigeyb | 3859 comments Mod
I'm three chapters into Book One: The Boroughs and still loving this remarkable working-class cosmology, in which gods and angels are not kings and lords but working men: building and crafting the universe, playing billiards and generally getting their hands dirty

Nigeyb | 3859 comments Mod

I’ve read three more brilliant chapters since my last report.

‘X Marks The Spot’ about a monk and his holy relic, and ‘Modern Times’ featuring a young Charlie Chaplin in 1910, pre fame and desperately trying to work out how he could achieve fame and leave his oppressive background far far away.

‘Blind, But Now I See’ is a wonderful chapter about the freed slave Henry who has pitched up in early 20th century Northampton and he investigates the origins of ‘Amazing Grace’.

This kaleidoscopic survey of Northampton is getting better and better. The range of voices, experiences and perceptions in this book is masterly. A truly immersive experience that I am revelling in. This book is magical.

Nigeyb | 3859 comments Mod
p242/1174 (19%)

Just finished 'Atlantis' the chapter about published poet Benedict Perritt, who we first meet when he encounters Marla. Here we see that encounter through Benedict's eyes. Another brilliant chapter, and one which ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, with Benedict's pen poised above a snow-blind, empty page….

I have not read much of this recently as there's a lot else going on but I'm still revelling in this epic, multi-generational saga of ordinary, working class folk that also happens to have a high preponderance of ghosts, angels and devils among its cast.

What could we conclude? Perhaps that we are our own final judges and in amongst the dark satanic mills of our ordinary existences, we are already living in the shining, eternal city of Jerusalem.

Nigeyb | 3859 comments Mod
I've finally read a quarter of this behemoth. It's still a marvellous experience but I'll be honest, it does feel like one heck of an undertaking

Nigeyb | 3859 comments Mod
I'd give it six stars if I could

I've now read 48%, so with over half still awaiting, I am loving it. Despite the book’s heft (bigger than the Bible y’know) it is very accessible and enjoyable. I'd give it six stars if I could.

Nigeyb | 3859 comments Mod
I'm on page 750 of 1280 of Jerusalem and have finally reached the end of Book 2 - Mansoul, and what a wonderful, remarkable and memorable literary experience it was too. Now for the third and final book, Book 3 - Vernal's Inquest

Nigeyb | 3859 comments Mod
I'm now on page 827 of 1280 of 'Jerusalem'...

...and have just finished 'A Cold and Frosty Morning' which is really a day in the life of Alma Warren (the thinly veiled self portrait of Alan Moore). Absolutely blimmin marvellous it is too. I really want that to be a pretty typical day in Alan's life.

NOT TO SELF: Checkout the Herbie cartoons by Ogden Whitney (in Forbidden Worlds and his own publication).

I love this book

message 17: by Nigeyb (last edited Jul 19, 2017 08:44AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nigeyb | 3859 comments Mod
I'm still reading this almighty tome and still loving it - perhaps loving it more than ever.



back to top