Jerusalem by Alan Moore (Books 2017, 5)

Yes, it’s halfway through the second-last month of the year and I’ve just finished my fifth book. Five in a year. That’s very poor. But this book was a large part of the reason for that.1

At over 1000 pages of very small text — close to a million words, I’ve heard — this is a mammoth work. It’s also really, really good.

As befits such a large work, it is a whole made of many parts. It’s split into three main sections, with each of those having eleven chapters; along with a “Prelude” and an “Afterlude.” The first is a series of short stories or vignettes, most of which are not obviously connected. They are all set in and around an area of Northampton called the Boroughs, at various times in the past and present.

In the second we find out what happened to Mick Warren, the closest thing we have to a protagonist, after he died aged three, before he came back to life again. The third brings it all together, after a fashion. Moore has always had trouble with endings — just consider the mighty Watchmen, whose ending was actually improved by the movie.

Did Alma Warren’s pictures save everything, and stop the destructor? Of course not: it always happened that way and always will. That’s the central thesis of the novel, the idea of eternalism, that time is static, and we only experience change because we happen to be moving along that axis at one second per second. This is of course similar to the viewpoint of Dr Manhattan in the aforementioned Watchmen, so we could suppose it’s a worldview that Moore has had for some time, though in his acknowledgements he suggests that he came to believe it during the years he was writing Jerusalem.

There is a chapter in book three that is written in the style of Joyce in his Finnegan’s wake days. It’s hard work to get through, but well worth it (though with hindsight if you were to skip that chapter I don’t think you’d miss much of the plot). Anyway, it’s a monster work, and well worth the time it takes to read.

  1. To be fair, spending a lot of time reading on the web, plus some reading comics, etc: these also need to be considered. []

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