Alan Moore's Voice of the Fire: part three of N: The Cremation Fields

as things keep popping up in my other life, i begin to find it harder and harder to sustain these reviews. my nights are still deeply immersed in Alan Moore's Voice of the Fire, but while that in itself ought to speak volumes about Mr Moore's writing and the story he's telling, it's becoming more difficult for me to put my thoughts on the book to words.

these past few nights, i've been finding myself almost reluctant to return to the book, wearied by the day, eyes heavy with longing for sleep, my brain still a-whirl with the stories that continue to build in my head but refuse to properly translate into words on the page...and yet when i do break open the book, i'm instantly caught up in 'The Cremation Fields's acerbic narrations.

refreshingly, the narrator does not ask for our sympathy: she has done and is doing something inexcusably horrible, her mind coldly calculating all the while, even as she describes in oddly beautiful grotesqueries the world in which she lives. and yet i find myself totally absorbed in learning about her life.

perhaps that descriptive quality of Mr Moore's writing is most remarkable to my mind. his writing rarely falls into the florid-if-precise descriptiveness of, say, Mervyn Peake, preferring a few quick phrases ('Boiled fish her breasts,' for instance) over painting an entire scene for the reader, and yet he manages to create vivid images in the mind's eye that make it easy to imagine an illustrator creating a graphic version of the book.

the book manages to be graphic without being literally illustrated in the way of Mr Moore's more familiar work. the visual quality of a prose work is something that seems amazing in the writings of the likes of Mr Peake, Angela Carter and, more recently, China Mieville, but is downright mystifying in Mr Moore's work. he describes character actions, motivations and ruminations more than actual scenes, and yet the image in the reader's minds eye is startlingly alive with atmosphere and detail.

i find myself thinking that a talented illustrator would find turning this book into a graphic novel a no-brainer, and, ultimately, an inessential and pointless exercise. it is so easy to enter the world of Voice that full illustration seems redundant.

is this, then, escapist fiction? i suppose that depends on how you define the term. there is certainly nothing easy or obviously liberating about the themes and events that populate both 'Hob's Hog' and 'Fields', both stories revealing (and, perhaps, grotesquely reveling in) the 'dirt' of the 'real world', but immersion into the book's world of symbols, images and words is so complete as to rip the reader away from his place on the page, and fly him off to *somewhere else* entirely.


banzai cat said...

Mmmm... so slightly better prose. Actually, I think I can stand somewhat florid as opposed to out-there so the preciseness is a relief. However, I think I know what you mean as the last time I felt how you described your experience was when I was reading Viriconium. Now that prose was harrowing (in a good way).

skinnyblackcladdink said...

Moore's writing here is FAR more accessible than Harrison's.

in The Cremation Fields, the people still pretty much talk in the present tense most (or maybe all) of the time; the narrator, however, uses other tenses, but still plays around with them.

but to get a better idea of what the actual prose is like, imagine Moore's text boxes from his graphic work. pretty much the same thing, but without any sort of dependence on actual graphics.

sorry the next part is taking so long, if you really plan on keeping up with this review. my reading has stalled, as it tends to do when i get to writing.

banzai cat said...

Heh. Any writing is good. And yeah, if the reviews are any indication then I might relent and pick up a copy of Moore's book. (My picking up Vandermeer's book has always been a foregone conclusion.)