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Alan Moore’s writing successes in the comics medium are numerous and worth noting before we dive into his recent triumph. WATCHMEN is famously on the list of Time Magazine’s 100 best novels of the 20th century, making it the only comic (graphic novel) work listed amongst the other 99. His book V FOR VENDETTA is indisputably one of the most convincing views into life inside a fascist regime and the effect it has on the nation it holds in its grip. After completing levels of comic writing that innumerable creators to this day struggle to reach, Alan Moore shifted gears 10 years ago to begin working on a new project that would shock, confound and amaze his desperate readership. I, of course, am referring to his 1,300-page epic simply titled JERUSALEM.

"JERUSALEM creates a grand scheme and an ambitiously achieved scope unlike any work in years, maybe even in generations.... an accomplishment on all fronts and not to be missed."

JERUSALEM’s primary focus is a particular slum in a section of Northampton, UK. The novel utilizes this setting to capture all times and points in its history with an ever-changing cast. Each chapter presents a different point in time through a different main character, with each segment focusing on only one day in the life of that character. It is in this way that we, in turn, are given an intimate look into this small town during very different periods of times. A moment of cultural shift or drastic ideological difference from chapter to chapter is subtly remarked from varied perspectives. Perhaps regarding the subject of madness, we would be presented with a later member of a bloodline remarking on the madness of those who came before, only to witness the descent into madness by the member of the family who was previously remarked upon. In this way, we are given a narrative of hopelessness followed by the events that preceded the loss of hope.

My favorite chapter --- and one that stands out in particular due to its timely subject matter --- is about an older man named Henry who takes a day trip a few towns over in an attempt to find the church where “Amazing Grace” was written. When he arrives, however, he is met with difficult revelations, pains and, ultimately, vindication --- all in a day’s walk. JERUSALEM is very much like a James Joyce work in this regard but differs in its hypnotic density and careful attention to detail, which serves to make it capable of reaching further depths.

Of course, it needs to be said that the book requires a great deal of patience from its readers. Not only is JERUSALEM 1,300 pages, it is also extremely dense. The word count of a single page is roughly the equivalent of three standard formatted pages of an average novel. This lends to the book’s ability to entrance, but only once you are thoroughly caught in Moore’s rhythm. This feat becomes exceedingly more manageable about 200 pages in, once the shifting writing styles become something expected and easy to prepare for and predict.

Alan Moore is a man who challenges himself time and again to a grander vision with each new project, and this one is a marvel. JERUSALEM creates a grand scheme and an ambitiously achieved scope unlike any work in years, maybe even in generations. I cannot honestly say much on that except that it reaches across time and space in such a simply presented way: a little bit at a time. The size and breadth of this work is worth more than the 10 years put into it and far more than even the amount of time an average person would put into reading it.

In order to give this book the praise it deserves, I fear my review would have to mimic the length of Moore's novel, but to spare you the time --- and allow you to go ahead and start reading --- I'll keep it short and sweet: JERUSALEM is an accomplishment on all fronts and not to be missed.

Reviewed by Matthew Burbridge on September 16, 2016

by Alan Moore

  • Publication Date: September 25, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 1280 pages
  • Publisher: Liveright
  • ISBN-10: 1631494724
  • ISBN-13: 9781631494727