Jerusalem, by Alan Moore

I love a big, rollicking whorehouse of a book. I wish Moore had written one.

A review of Jerusalem, by Alan Moore

I’m disappointed by Jerusalem, since it is written by Alan Moore, a writer whom I have read with great pleasure since his early work in comic books. Here in the middle of Jerusalem I can barely find the Moore who wrote Miracleman, The Lost Girls, From Hell, Swamp Thing, Top Ten, LOEG, The Watchmen, and many more fine stories. I know this man knows how to tell a good story, inhabited by fascinating characters caught up in fantastic adventures. This time he has struggled, it seems to this reader, to write with his usual mastery.

Moore has placed his story in the ethereal precincts of his beloved Northampton, and has elevated his inspirited hometown to a holy and eternal city; but this exaltation, lovely in intention, is blurred by its own prose, which reads like the prose of a beginning writer, who believes that adding a vast abundance of detail will make his story more convincing:

“Mick nodded, fumbling in his jacket for the brand new pack of fags he’d picked up half an hour back on the way down Barrack Road. He peeled the cuticle of cellophane that held the packet’s plastic wrap in place down to its quick, shucked off the wrapper’s top and tugged the foil away that hid the tight-pressed and cork-Busbied ranks beneath, the crinkled see-through wrapping and unwanted silver paper crushed to an amalgam and shoved carelessly into Mick’s trouser pocket.” (p. 33)

Moore does not trust his reader, an old mistake I was surprised to read in a writer as experienced as he. “Mick pulled a pack of fags from his jacket” is enough. Unless the unwrapping of said fags and careful stowage of the wrapper matter deeply in the later story, that’s plenty.

I can withstand crushing prose if I care about a story’s characters. But I find I do not care much about these characters. Moore seems anxious about them, or concerned that people might not like them; he troubles them and pokes them until they can barely stand up. I’d like them to get a strong drink and a good night’s sleep, before they are compelled to resume their contortions.

I can see the characters resenting the author. “Look, mate, we’re trying to tell a story here. Do you mind? Let us work.”

The story that Moore wants to tell us is a lovely one. His stories concern the beauty of the world even when horrible things happen. I believe he has missed a grand opportunity to bring us yet another story about beauty, just when we need one. I wish he would write less, so that his story could say more.

The blurbs, the magniloquent blurbs that in their intensity approach apoplexy, should have deterred me. Along the luminous margins of this great work dangle lesser writers who trust the reader even less than Moore trusts her — these writers are the blurb writers, who are not real storytellers of course but marketers, engrossed in their spasmodic task of selling, selling, selling. The paper binding of the book is gobbed with a marketer’s specious delight. The floor of a whorehouse is less sticky.

Readers who own vast patience and a few long evenings should give this book a good long chance. Moore does risky things, and since I would like to know whether he is devoted more to this story of magical Northampton, or to the ecstasies of marketers, I suppose I will push my way around a few more dark corners in Jerusalem. Maybe I will stop in a while, or keep going, depending on how weary the characters seem, or how weary I become.

I love a big, rollicking whorehouse of a book. I wish Moore had written one.

by Alan Moore
Liveright, 2016

Buy it at Powell’s.

invested with false power

Here are some words, I’ll set them out below, that tell us when the writer has not thought deeply about her or his subject. And maybe despises her subject, and her readers too, and maybe herself. Or has thought as deeply as she was able at the time, but was too beat down to get very far. Too abused, too stressed out. But these words come out gratuitous almost any time they get used; and marketers love them because they, these words I mean, these lazy words, are invested with false power.  You should ask yourself: Do you want to do right by the reader? To make her weep or dance or shudder or exclaim something she once believed unspeakable? Or do you want to teach her to be credulous, and deck her with plastic and dross? Here is some advice, which you didn’t ask for, but you seem like a decent person and I’d like to help you: Don’t read publications that use these words. They — the publications, the web sites, your phone where your face is plugged in, the words themselves — dilute your capacity to be interesting. If you use these words in conversation, ask yourself: Is this something that anybody might want to hear? Do I sound like a damn marketer? Here are some mindless words we read every day in specious galleries. There are many more but here are some of them:


astonishing, astounding, and so on

let me decide for myself if something is astonishing or astounding




any superlative, unless you earned it



insane (when used as a superlative)




you haven’t earned it




stupendous, stupefying, and so on




Contraction it’s given over to possessive case

“The hell with it,” say nation’s top grammarians


CHICAGO IL — A consortium of the nation’s top grammarians has revised the rules of grammar to permit the use of the word it’s as a possessive nominative pronoun. The revision was announced at a press conference today at the University of Chicago.

“Most people write it’s as a possessive anyway, so we figured, the hell with it,” said John Grossman, Managing Editor of the venerable Chicago Manual of Style.

Grossman was clutching a bottle.

“They write A South American poison dart frog sits atop it’s keeper’s thumb during feeding time,” said Grossman, or “The aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln pulls into Everett, Wash., as a fireboat shoots it’s water cannons.

A smirking Grossman held up placards that illustrated the formerly erroneous sentences. He then threw the placards on the ground and swigged from his bottle while cameras flashed around him.

“Since the it’s error is ubiquitous, we suppose it’s no longer an error,” said Karen Judd, author of the respected Copyediting: A Practical Guide. “That’s the [redacted] evolution of the language, right?”

She tapped Grossman on the shoulder, took his bottle, and drank.

Members of the consortium stated that they changed the grammatical rule to give a much-needed break to editors everywhere.

“If you’re an editor, you can spend hours explaining to your colleagues and writers the difference between it’s and its, and most of the time no one believes you anyway,” said Karen Elizabeth Gordon, author of the well-known grammar handbook The Transitive Vampire. “So now both it’s and its correctly indicate the possessive. We have saved editors a lot of stress.

“Like anyone gives a [redacted] anyway,” she said.

New iterations of dictionaries, textbooks, and grammar and style guides will reflect the grammatical change.

“Next, I bet we’ll be revising the relative pronouns which and that,” said Grossman, staggering slightly. “No one gives a [redacted] anymore about separating restrictive clauses from non-restrictive.”

“Yeah, they think if they write which instead of that, their words sound more important,” said Gordon, momentarily tussling with Grossman for the bottle.

“We might as well go ahead and endorse the use of a lot of for many, too,” said Judd.

“Or comprise for compose,” said Gordon.

“Or literally as an intensifier,” said Judd.

“Or nauseous for nauseating,” said Gordon.

“Or empathetic for empathic,” said Judd.

“Yeah, just [redacted] it all to [redacted],” said Grossman, glaring into the cameras. “Who took my [redacted] bottle?”