Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Please can I have some Moore?

So what's the connection between Watchmen (movie reviewed last week) and erotica? No, not just Dr Manhattan's big blue cock. Nor the fact that I'm rather keen on both.

Bear with me...

The writer of the Watchmen graphic novel is Alan Moore, who happens to be the single living author* I admire the most . "Admire" is an understatement here. Most of his prose has been published in the graphic novel genre. He's individualistic**, deeply principled, and possibly the most stubborn man on the planet. He's also very hairy. And he writes stuff that turns my brain inside out and makes me weep with envy. Here he is on finishing a novel:

The last words of the previous chapter, written in grey light, stand there upon the monitor's dark stage, beneath the Help menu that's lettered up on the proscenium arch. The cursor winks, a visible slow handclap in the black deserted auditorium.

(from Voice of the Fire, Moore's only prose novel to date)

The first time I read that I wanted to get down on my knees in praise. Then bang my head off the desk in despair of writing anything that good. Moore seems to think in allusion and metaphor - the province of the poet and the ritual magician. His work is literally mind-expanding:

We are insensate molecules, assembled from the accidental code engraved on our genes. Mud that sat up. We reproduce, mathematically predictable as spores within a petri dish. We function briefly, then subside once more into the unknowing silt. We are a blind contingency, an unimportant restlessness of dirt - and yet Rosetti paints his dead Elizabeth, head tilted back on her impossibly slim throat, eyes closed against the golden light surrounding her. Clay looks on clay, and understands that it is beautiful. Through us, the cosmos gazes on itself, adores itself, breaks its own heart. Through us, matter stares slack-jawed at its own star-dusted countenance and knows, incredulously, that it knows.

(from Snakes and Ladders)

Now in 2006 Moore, along with artist Melinda Gebbie (whom he later married) published an enormous erotic novel called Lost Girls, which is all about how great he thinks porn is. Here they are, by the way:

Told you he was hairy.

Lost Girls is a 3-volume hardback about Dorothy (from Oz), Wendy (of Peter Pan fame) and Alice (of Wonderland) meeting up when grown, on the eve of WW1, in a hotel in Switzerland. They have lots of sex and discuss their secrets and come to terms with their pasts. The book promptly got banned by a whole load of retail bookshops. I'm not going to recommend you buy it blind because it is a tad on the expensive side (I borrowed it from a friend!). But it's pertinent and fascinating because here is a greatly respected and fairly mainstream author stepping out from the shadows to say "porn is wonderful".

Moore is immensely articulate and intelligent and I am not going to attempt to reproduce his argument here***. But he did do a long and fascinating interview on the subject which has been archived by Comic Book Resources. Here's Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

And if you want to read some of his non-smut work you could start as I did with the collected Swamp Thing - it's an easy in for horror/fantasy or mainstream comics fans. Or maybe try the denser and more downbeat From Hell if you like historic settings, or Promethea if you are into magic and philosophy and beautiful artwork. Voice of the Fire is very English. Watchmen, of course, is set in America.

*the single deceased author being Angela Carter.
** as Wikipedia succinctly puts it: 'He is a vegetarian, an anarchist, a practicing magician and occultist, and he worships a Roman snake-deity named Glycon, which he acknowledges to be a "complete hoax".'
***Nor do I unreservedly agree with everything he has to say.


Charlotte Stein aka The Mighty Viper said...

Oh, how I do like Watchmen. And I liked the film, despite Moore's occasional grumbles about it. He's very grumbly, but I like his grumbliness. It's an eccentric, almost old man sort of grumbliness, so you can forgive the mad things he says and enjoy the very intelligent things he says.

Neve Black said...

Wonderful post, Janine.

Prolific and eloquent writer, eccentric and hairy. Sounds like my kind of man.

p.s. How in the world am I ever going to get my hands on a copy of Lost Girls? Damn!

Janine Ashbless said...

Hah ha - look what I found: it's the episode of the Simpsons guest starring Alan Moore as himself! (And yes, he's a bit grumbly...)

Sorry the quality isn't very good: some guy pointing his camera at his TV screen, rather obviously.

And Neve, well, they do have Lost Girls in stock at Amazon. Just don't look at the price!

Cora Zane said...

So that's the blue penis causing all the stir. I haven't been to see the movie yet, and everything I've heard about it is about "the big blue".

I haven't heard of Lost Girls before, but now I want to read it!

Olivia Knight said...

I just came here in post-novel-writing it's-ended-now what-the-hell-do-I-do-next collapse and found this: "The last words of the previous chapter, written in grey light, stand there upon the monitor's dark stage, beneath the Help menu that's lettered up on the proscenium arch. The cursor winks, a visible slow handclap in the black deserted auditorium."

Yup. I haven't even left the chair yet. Just stared at the cursor, thinking - is that the last line? Really? That?

Thanks for the serendipity :-)

Janine Ashbless said...

You're welcome!
There you go, magic in action...

Janine Ashbless said...

And as a late addendum ...
check out this Dork Tower page