To call Alan Moore’s novel Jerusalem sprawling would not be entirely accurate. Certainly, the story is extensive—taking place roughly from the era of the Crusades to the 2020s, with one memorable chapter reaching towards a limit that’s not quite the end of time itself, but somewhere in the general vicinity. And as is obvious from the first pages, and will only get more obvious as the novel progresses, the world Moore details for us in over 1200 pages is hardly limited to our own plane of earthly existence. Stylistically, it is quite intentionally all over the place—with chapters drawing upon a rich historical archive of prose and even verse, veering from noir to stream of consciousness to Carrollesque escapades and back again.
But it is all anchored in the geography the city of Northampton in Northern England, Moore cherishing the obsessive piecemeal portrait of his hometown that unfolds over the course of 1280 pages. And this is a story that does indeed unfold, a surprisingly compact and humanscale epic of cosmic proportions, whose manifold tangents and digressions come into tighter and tighter focus as the narrative resolves itself, tracing the precarious human connections spread across a neighborhood’s long history of rebellion, decay, and displacement. Impressively, despite the magnitude of its ambition and the consummate prose skills that realize it, Jerusalem remains, at its heart, a genre novel, entirely readable on its own terms, no matter how far its metaphysical and historical peregrinations invite the reader to travel.
A caveat and trigger warning: this is a book in which a central thread revolves around an act of rape—which may not come as a surprise to readers of Alan Moore's other works. Like many of those other works, the use of sexual violence as a key part of the plot verges on, but perhaps, at least in this case, does not yet veer into, problematic territory. Moore's female characters are strong, well-rounded, and memorable, his depiction of violently misogynistic acts spares no sympathy for the perpetrators, and he is entirely capable of presenting modes of female sexuality that are affirming and grounded in consent and agency. But while this may absolve him of any immediately obvious violations, and indeed make a strong case for Moore as feminist, not everyone will agree that this necessarily grants Moore the license to tell the particular story he chooses to tell in the way he chooses to tell it.
|Year of publication||2016|