Alan Moore's Voice of the Fire: Part two of N: Hob's Hog and The Cremation Fields

there’s a grotesque sense of relief that comes with the end of ‘Hob’s Hog’. by the time you get to the literal Voice of the Fire at the end of this story, you ought to have become accustomed to the nameless narrator’s pre-literate English; yet it becomes no less trying on the mind, as, even with the limited vocabulary and restrictive, sophisticatedly unsophisticated grammar, Alan Moore manages to twist the words into novel turns of phrase that, while compulsively readable, are so unfamiliar that they aren’t always easy to tease into meaning.

as the fire burned at the end of ‘Hog’, i found myself struggling for air, coming out the other end of the liquid flames to take a deep lungful of ‘The Cremation Fields’.

set 1,500 years later, ‘Fields’ is an almost literal breath of fresh air after Mr Moore’s stifling linguistic tricks in ‘Hog’. the narrator’s voice is more conventional here, and, to be sure, is very distinct from the narrator of ‘Hog’, being, for one thing, capable of more complicated ideas (we find her at the beginning of the story violently initiating what looks to be a ‘long con’), and, even more refreshing to my mind, imbued with a sense of humor. but the poetry, though ‘translated’ and, perhaps, ‘transubstantiated’, feels much the same. like the shifting lines of a well-crafted jazz piece, the rhythm changes, but, somehow, the soul of the overall composition is kept intact.

i should have come to this book with a fresher set of eyes, a less tainted mind. as it is, i keep thinking of everything in terms of what they say about ‘magic’: is magic, then, violent? because Voice, thus far, is so riddled with violence, both mental and physical, figurative and literal, insinuated and barefaced, that at this point it appears that whatever Mr Moore may have to say on the topic of magic—the interplay of symbols and meaning, of language, experience, fact and fiction—that it is difficult to come to any other basic conclusion.

Alan Moore’s Voice of the Fire, thus far, is as dark as it is illuminating. right now, i can’t imagine coming to the end of this book without that fact still burning in my mind.


banzai cat said...

Mmm... keeping track of your review of Moore. I actually don't have any intention to check out this book despite Moore's writerly prowess. Unfortunately, I'm wary of too much experimentation in language (prose) akin to Russell Hoban's Ridley Walker. I had the impression the first part of Moore's novel was like this. (Remember my assessment of Margo Lanagan's acclaimed short story. Something like that.)

Still, how's the language of the rest of the book?

skinnyblackcladdink said...

hey bc. check-out part three of N.

it would probably help if i put up quotes, but i'm allergic to that method of review, and it doesn't help that i never have the book with me when i write these things, so you may want to look for excerpts (or other reviews) elsewhere on-line.

the experimentation of 'Hob's Hog', to my mind, is, in fact, a necessity, as it pretty much sets your mind up to receive whatever message Mr Moore seems to have for the reader.