Saturday, December 31, 2016

Jerusalem Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Alan Moore
Publisher: Liveright
Genre: Literary Fantasy
Series: Standalone
Pages: 1,266

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May 26th, 2006, is the date of Alma Warren's latest art exhibition. Inspired by the twisted dreams of her younger brother Mick, this art exhibition is poised to make an impact in both the worlds of the living and the dead.

Alan Moore. Many would agree this is the greatest storyteller in the history of comics and graphic novels. And with Jerusalem he's making a second attempt at a novel ... a huge novel at that. One that's longer than War and Peace, and depending on how you rank the longest novel, Jerusalem technically makes the list of the top ten longest novels ever. The point being this is as ambitious of a writing project that a writer could undertake. And the leap from comics to fiction, and not just science fiction and fantasy, but literary fiction, too, is all the more impressive.

Reading the inside the flap of Jerusalem, the novel is described as a mosaic of widely different events and literary styles, essentially painting a picture of a story that's going to be all over the place. And to a certain extent that is true, but the Alma Warren art exhibition is definitely a large driving point behind the actions of Moore's large cast of characters.

Broken into three parts, the first of which is entitled The Boroughs, begins a chronological history of the Warren family from the mid-19th century to the early 21st, and occasionally features narrators outside the family that interact with them. This is the most straightforward portion of the novel. Chronological events are mostly linear, the literary style invokes a heavily detailed and descriptive form of realism, supernatural events occur, but they're kept to a minimum.

In the second part, entitled Mansoul, the novel follows the adventures of a group of dead children who call themselves the Dead Dead Gang. This is the most character focused portion of the story, as narrators switch every chapter, but with the characters grouped together for most of the story, they become the easiest for the reader to learn about and attach themselves to. The numerous supernatural occurrences in this portion of the story makes you feel like your reading an adventure story you used to read when you were younger. It invokes nostalgia.

Vernall's Inquest, the third part, begins preparations for Alma Warren's art exhibit. These chapters mostly return to the Boroughs, although some do take place in Mansoul. It's in this section where literary experimentation takes off.  Nearly every chapter changes literary styles. Some highlights include a chapter written as a play, another written in verse, and a few return to straightforward realism. One chapter (one of my personal favorites from the entire book) is a flight through space from the beginning of time to its end by grandfather and granddaughter.

Most ambitiously though, is the chapter that's narrated from Lucia Joyce's perspective in the style used by her father to write Finnegan's Wake. It's incredibly difficult to piece together, since nearly every word in it can't be found in an English dictionary. It took me a week to get through, but there are a lot of double meanings and hidden bits of humor.

Fans of literary fiction and science fiction/fantasy don't always see eye to eye. I for one am a fan of both genres, so seeing an ambitious novel where both genres can make there mark, while being guided by one of modern writing's most influential authors was truly an experience to enjoy. Above all, Jerusalem, is a collection of people, history, culture, ideas, and stories that made Northampton England what it is today. It appears Moore hopes to make May 26th, 2006 in Northampton England as important in literary significance as June 16th, 1904 in Dublin Ireland.

Only time will tell.

Score: 8.5

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