Tuesday, November 11, 2003

I've begun Alan Moore's sole (to date) prose novel, Voice of the Fire. It's a novel that moves through time as opposed to place. 12 chapters, each set in his hometown of Northampton, each set in a different time period, each with a different narrator. The last chapter is narrated by Moore himself as he takes a walk through modern-day Northampton, thinking about the book. The famously-impenetrable first chapter is not as difficult as I had expected. Let me explain: it's narrated by a caveman. What Moore did is he kind of approximated a language that would be used at the time (obviously nothing close to accurate because the differences would be too insurmountable to make sense to a present-day reader), coming up with a glossary of about 1000 words, and restricted himself to using those words only. So for a lot of people, it's really difficult to slog through. I have to read r e a l l y s l o w l y, sometimes even talking out loud. At times I don't get the minute specifics of what he's saying, but there's a general understanding as I go through it. But since it's Moore, it is, of course, utterly fascinating to me. In the beginning, the caveman describes "gray sky-beasts" and I thought, okay, some kind of prehistoric flying animal. Later on he mentions herds of sky-beasts going "from one end of the world to the other," and I realize that he's talking about clouds. Later on, a mention of a black spirit-friend who accompanies him, but disappears during the "dark" (night)-- this is his shadow, which they treat as a separate creature within his tribe. At one point he comes across the body of his dead mother, and his first instinct is to fuck her. Why? To keep her warm. He's surprised that she's stiff and cold to the touch. You can't argue with caveman logic.

It's not dissimilar in that sense to Flowers for Algernon, and reminds me of one of the functions of storytelling: to make you see the world through another's eyes. We've become inured to it because most of what we've seen recently is something close to our own level of understanding. Even if it's set in Middle-Earth. But here, the lens is skewed, and there's nowhere else through which to look, so you're really forced to understand things the caveman way. Certainly, reciting out loud, and slowly, at that, helps.

It's such a thrill to discover these things. :)


Awww... too sweet for words. :)

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