I recently finished the first volume of Alan Moore’s trilogy, Jerusalem. I think I have fallen in love with these books. Moore’s imagination is amazing to me. I have enjoyed his graphic novels immensely. But in the first book of Jerusalem, The Boroughs, he has charmed this reader without pictures. (Post script here: It looks like this novel is also a graphic novel. I ran across this googling for pics here. Very cool.)
Interestingly, he makes several allusions that interest the church musician in me. Basically each chapter of the book is from different people’s point of view. In the chapter, “Blind, but now I see,” Moore tells of a man named Henry who is American but has moved with his wife to England. Henry stumbles ont an area of Boroughs where John Newton, the author of “Amazing Grace,” lived.
“Henry felt stirred up by this in a manner what surprised him. He’d been sincere when he’d said it was his favorite song, and not just trying to sweeten the old lady. He recalled the women singing it out in the fields, his momma there amongst them, and it seemed like half his life had been caught up in its refrain. He’d heard it sung since he’d been in his cradle, and he thought it must’ve been a black man’s tune from long ago, like it had always been there. Finding out about this Pastor Newton fair made Henry’s head spin, just to think how far he’d come since he first heard that song, only to wind up quite by accident on the doorstep of the man who wrote it.”
Henry goes looking for Newton’s grave. Instead he meets the warden of a cemetery who tells him Newton is buried in London. The warden tells him some of the story of Newton’s history including the fact that Newton chose to be a slave trader after he himself had suffered being “press-ganged into service on a man-o-war where he deserted and was flogged.”
“Henry was all in pieces. He didn’t know what to think…. John Newton had become a slave trader… Even when he’d just got rescued from a slaver, even when he knowed what it was like aboard they ships, he’d gone and got a vessel so he could ply that trade himself. He got rich off it, he got rich off of slaving and then later on he made his big repentance and become a minister and wrote ‘Amazing Grace. Dear Lord, dear sweet Lord on the cross it was a slaver who wrote ‘Amazing Grace.”
I put the excerpts here so you can get a taste of how Moore makes his sentences.
There are many interesting references in the book. Mentions of people from the history of hymnody like Cowper, Doddridge, John Wesley. William Blake’s Jerusalem plays a part in the story and also multiple references to the hymn, Jerusalem. But these parts are subsidiary to the story that Moore is telling about a place the reader learns in the second volume is called “Mansoul” and exists at odd dimensional angles to the Borough. This place is populated by people who have died.
One chapter in The Boroughs describes ghosts who haunt the Boroughs. The reader doesn’t understand initially that they are ghosts. But gradually it becomes obvious in ways I don’t want to write about in case any of you ever read or listen to this book.
I’ve already started the second volume. Moore combines qualities of Dickens with fantasy writing that strikes me as virtuosic.
Embedded settings. I seem to be on a church music kick this morning, eh?
This explains the story the right wing media continues to put forth. It seems madness that so many people are saying things that are not true.
More distortion from the right.
I wonder what happened to the notion that people are innocent until proven guilty.
Some interesting analysis. However, I thought I heard this morning on the radio that Isis has claimed responsibility for the recent attack in New York even though the attacker is alive.
Excerpt from Donna Brazile’s new book, Hacks