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Thursday, July 22, 2004

More from Moore

A great interview with genius Alan Moore in Salon.com.

An excerpt:
Moore, now 50, has a peculiar perspective on this problem of "misrecognition" between fiction and reality -- because so many of his works have seemingly anticipated or prefigured so much of what has come to pass. "V for Vendetta," Moore's dystopian early-1980s narrative about a future fascist Britain under siege by a notorious terrorist who was subjected to unbearable torture, echoes much of our current dilemma in the so-called war on terrorism, all the way down to the criminalization of homosexuality, the panoptic PATRIOT Act-like surveillance state and a homogeneous media that glosses over real news in favor of sensationalism.

Similarly, "Watchmen," Moore's groundbreaking serial that blew the comics genre wide open, unmasked our presumed comic-book heroes as nothing but a set of neuroses and psychoses in action, figures who look the other way (some in protest) as one of their own unleashes a devastating act of terror that kills half of New York's population -- ironically enough, in order to save the world from nuclear annihilation. It is the same kind of warped cost-benefit analysis that, some would argue, led to 9/11 and its resultant wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and who knows where else.

Then there is "From Hell," a labyrinthine masterpiece of historical research, detective work and social commentary worthy of Thomas Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow" or William Burroughs' "Naked Lunch." Moore's calculated tale of turn-of-the-century England -- as seen through the eyes of its prostitutes, public servants and aristocrats -- achieves its apotheosis in the birth of the serial killer, which Moore considers one of the 20th century's key innovations.

There's so much information to absorb in "From Hell" that it's almost impossible to gather it in at one sitting. In one 38-page chapter alone, Moore's Jack the Ripper takes his driver on a city-wide tour of London's points of diabolical interest, connecting the bastions of secret societies, mythical and true lineages, transcendent architectures, phallic topographies and other landmarks into a pentagram shape. This allegorical voyage, which Moore says he made himself, relying on both recent and ancient maps of London, so terrifies Jack's driver that he vomits, sick with the realization that he is connected to his culture, his history and his employer in ways he never could have conceived.

The lesson there, as Moore explains it, is that to understand the world one lives in, one has to give "coherence to ... complexity, to say that it is possible to think about politics, history, mythology, architecture, murder and the rest of it all at the same time to see how it connects." And Moore's work is nothing if not complex. His explorations of the ways humanity deludes and condemns itself have done more to overcome the anti-comics prejudice of the American and European literary establishment than anything else in the comics genre. And he imparts a whole lot more information than Fox News or CNN.

In other words, Moore is not simply one of the finest writers in comic book history. He's one of the world's finest writers, period. He's capable of illuminating postmodern culture's disorienting information overload as well as any accepted literary genius, whether it's Melville, Pynchon or Joyce.

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