If you are reading this post, you know I’m a huge fan of Alan Moore. His work in the oft castigated medium of sequential storytelling/comics, almost single handedly in the 1980s helped mature and legitimize the medium, and laid the groundwork for our current 21st century, where that medium of four color wonders and garish colored myths has become the driving force of all other mass mediums, from video games to television to movies.
And while the heydey of Alan Moore’s legendary work, SWAMP THING, MIRACLEMAN, WATCHMEN is three decades old, he has continued to crank out wonderful work since, V FOR VENDETTA, FROM HELL, TOP 10, PROMETHEA, LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMAN. All that to say even in his semi-retirement of the last 10 years, where he has been working on his novel in addition to occasional, and of varying quality, comic work for niche publishers; he has enough history of greatness, enough in the bank, to still get excited about new work from him.
So when Moore’s decade in the making, 600000 word JERUSALEM novel finally wrapped this year, I was on the lookout for it to appear.
Being a fan of Moore’s Spoken Word cds, I knew getting the audio book would be the only way to go for JERUSALEM. He puts so much nuance into his spoken word, there is simply a lot you can get out of a master storyteller, telling you a masterful story, especially in such a regionally specific, and language specific work, that you otherwise would gloss over. Now Moore, unfortunately but probably sensibly, does not try to read his 600000 word tome, instead getting Simon Vance an acclaimed voice actor to do the marathon reading session.
For those of you who dont know, 600000 words is an INSANE amount of words. By comparison Hemingway’s OLD MAN AND THE SEA is 27000 words, Stephen King’s IT (one of the biggest novels, of the notoriously wordy novelist) came in at over a thousand pages, is 430,000 words. And I read all 430000 words, no audiobook for that one, and it remains one of King’s best novels.
Running at a staggering 49CDs (for the non MP3 version) I picked up JERUSALEM at my local library, Amazon only offering the paper and mp3 versions.
There may be a good story here in Alan Moore’s JERUSALEM, somewhere, but it is lost under its own minutia and overspecificity and filler, and it seems the meat of the story is never reached, we spend all our time trying to get our fork through caked on bredding, on caked on breading, on caked on breading. It is words for the sake of words, to the point that meaning and story progression vacates them.
I made it three CDs in before I determined life is too short to spend anymore of it with this book. Editors are an oft maligned demographic, but my gosh could this book have used an editor. Not everyone can write novels, and obviously not everyone can edit themselves. At 60000 words this may be a masterpiece, at 600000 it is an exploded encyclopedia, and quite frankly both a bore and a chore.
It gives me no pleasure to say that, being an Alan Moore fan, but he remains in good company of geniuses at the short form, such as Shakespeare, Poe, Borges, Bradbury, Doyle, even Dickens who couldn’t master the long form.
Final Grade: Get it from your Library for free and try it for yourself, but in my opinion it is a miss.
“As the novel cannot be read at one sitting, it cannot avail itself of the immense benefit of totality. Wordly interests, intervening during the pauses of perusal, modify, counteract, and annul the impressions intended. But simply cessation in reading would, of itself, be sufficient to destroy the true unity. In the brief tale, however, the author is enabled to carry out his full design without interruption. During the hours of perusal, the soul of the reader is at the writer’s control.”
— Edgar Allen Poe, on the strengths of the short story