Jerusalem

Narrated by: Simon Vance
Length: 60 hrs and 42 mins
4.4 out of 5 stars (429 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Winner, 2017 APA Audie Awards - Best Male Narrator

Fierce in its imagining and stupefying in its scope, Jerusalem is the tale of everything, told from a vanished gutter.

In the epic novel Jerusalem, Alan Moore channels both the ecstatic visions of William Blake and the theoretical physics of Albert Einstein through the hardscrabble streets and alleys of his hometown of Northampton, UK. In the half a square mile of decay and demolition that was England's Saxon capital, eternity is loitering between the firetrap housing projects. Embedded in the grubby amber of the district's narrative, among its saints, kings, prostitutes, and derelicts, a different kind of human time is happening, a soiled simultaneity that does not differentiate between the petrol-colored puddles and the fractured dreams of those who navigate them.

Employing a kaleidoscope of literary forms and styles that range from brutal social realism to extravagant children's fantasy, from modern stage drama to the extremes of science fiction, Jerusalem's dizzyingly rich cast of characters includes the living, the dead, the celestial, and the infernal in an intricately woven tapestry that presents a vision of an absolute and timeless human reality in all of its exquisite, comical, and heartbreaking splendor.

In these minutes lurk demons from the second-century Book of Tobit and angels with golden blood who reduce fate to a snooker tournament. Vagrants, prostitutes, and ghosts rub shoulders with Oliver Cromwell; Samuel Beckett; James Joyce's tragic daughter, Lucia; and Buffalo Bill, among many others. There is a conversation in the thunderstruck dome of St. Paul's Cathedral, childbirth on the cobblestones of Lambeth Walk, an estranged couple sitting all night on the cold steps of a Gothic church front, and an infant choking on a cough drop for 11 chapters. An art exhibition is in preparation, and above the world a naked old man and a beautiful dead baby race along the Attics of the Breath toward the heat death of the universe.

An opulent mythology for those without a pot to piss in, through the labyrinthine streets and minutes of Jerusalem tread ghosts that sing of wealth, poverty, and our threadbare millennium. They discuss English as a visionary language from John Bunyan to James Joyce, hold forth on the illusion of mortality post-Einstein, and insist upon the meanest slum as Blake's eternal holy city.

©2016 Alan Moore (P)2016 Recorded Books

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What listeners say about Jerusalem

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Magisterial, magnificent!

Would you consider the audio edition of Jerusalem to be better than the print version?

No, I read the print version and that is the intended format, so I "prefer" that, but the audiobook has its own unique charms.

What did you like best about this story?

It's breadth, scope and dazzling inventiveness.

What about Simon Vance’s performance did you like?

His accents and inflections are very good. he also makes the Lucia Joyce chapter accessible, as it was a challenge (and a rewarding delight) to read.

Who was the most memorable character of Jerusalem and why?

Alma and Mick Warren, the sibling characters who are the primary focus. Henry George, a freed slave living in Northampton is also a stand out. Honestly, the book is loaded with memorable characters, from the "demon" Asmodeus, who is often as hilarious as he is frightening, to the ghostly and intrepid gang of kids who guide Michael Warren through a sort of afterlife.

Any additional comments?

This is one of the most dazzling and inventive novels I have ever had the pleasure to read, and listen to, and I'll be revisiting it again, which is a comparative rarity for me.

29 people found this helpful

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What did I just experience?

If Jerusalem were a recipe, the ingredients thrust into a cement mixer dimensioned blender would include the following ingredients (devoid of proportion): Breughal, Escher, Pink Floyd interpreting Sgt. Pepper's, Murikami, Einstein on hallucinogenics, Harry Potter & James Joyce grounds, all flame broiled until producing a continuous multi-dimensional yet compressed potion of all 9 circles of Dante's hell.
Amazing writing and narration. Only Tristram Shandy baffles me more. Not sure what I listened to, but glad I experienced it!

22 people found this helpful

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A stunning and intelligent Epic

The reading journey you will take part in while reading Jerusalem is fantastical, at times difficult, always beautiful, and ultimately worth it. There were many times while listening to this novel I was struck by the beauty within a single sentence, and then it would happen again, and then again, and then again. The book left me with some incredibly imagery and concepts that I will not soon forget. You know it's a good book, when you feel like it was over all too soon at 61 hours. Highly recommend for those that enjoy smart, challenging novels. #Mindbending #tagsgiving #sweepstakes,

28 people found this helpful

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Neither Engaging nor Satisfying

Seriously guys??? I see it's on me to be the dissenting voice of reason. So be it.

Perhaps I'm a Philistine (one really can't tell about oneself), but I just can't understand why this book has received such high praise. As far as I'm concerned, the only merit that it possesses is that it's long. Maybe if you're driving across the country, then it might help you stay awake. Probably not though, as the plot is neither terribly engaging nor remotely satisfying. I'm not going to spoil anything in case you make the [unfortunate] decision to go ahead and read this thing anyway, but I will tell you this: nothing, I mean nothing gets resolved or even fully explained.

Don't get me wrong, I'm normally cool with semi-vague endings that leave you to resolve elements of the plot or speculate about the resolution of certain events (e.g., Roadside Picnic, The Windup Bird Chronicle, The Man in the High Castle, etc). In fact, I tend to like those kinds of stories far more than the average reader, so it's not an aversion to vague endings that piqued me.

Let me be clear: we're talking about massive, seemingly endless string of inane stories about generally unlikeable people few of which actually tie together in any meaningful way or resolve into satisfying conclusions. It's like an endless Stephen King character montage (the type he uses to give you a peek into the lives of the citizens of a town in novels such as Salem's Lot and Needful Things), only the characters aren't terribly interesting and the plots lack coherency. I kept thinking, "Now! This is the part where something that happened earlier is going to matter," and being completely wrong. There are exactly three threads that stitch together throughout the book, and none of them moved me in any way. I've never been so relieved to finish a book.

What irritated me the most about this book is that it left me with an impression that the author was having a bit of a laugh at me. "Look what I got this poor schlub to do—he read this whole cursed thing" It's like one of those long, tedious jokes that starts with a plaid monster in a plaid room and ends with the punchline, "And the moral of the story is you should always look both ways before crossing the street."

Barring malice, I can only conclude that the author simply didn't have a story to tell and just wanted to write, pouring out his words in a tome that he thought would would make James Joyce proud. Instead, I'll draw from one of my favorite Stephen King quotes. There are good stories told poorly, and there bad stories told well, and sometimes you luck out and find a good story told well. This, however, is neither a good story nor is it told well, no matter what the vein, pseudo-intellectual sycophants who convince themselves that tripe like this is actually good fiction may say.

83 people found this helpful

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Lowest. Recommendation. Ever.

“Are you still listening to that terrible book? Why?”

I can’t count how many times my wife has asked me that question this past year. For a while I kept holding out hope that the book would turn-around. It didn’t. So while I did finish the book, I kind of regret losing 60+ hours of my life doing so. Huh... 60+ hours?

The book in question is Alan Moore’s Jerusalem - a 1200 page tome that translates to a 60-hour audio book. This book was, for me - and I don’t say this lightly, the most dreadful thing I’ve ever read. Stay far away from this book. If you don’t know who Alan Moore is, don’t start with this book. If you do know who Alan Moore is, don’t bother with this book. If you love Alan Moore’s work in comics forget this book even exists. Get the picture?

My instinct was to not solely blame Moore but also the book’s editor for allowing a rambling volume of this size to go to print. Then I found this little quote

“Any editor worth their salt would tell me to cut two-thirds of this book but that’s not going to happen. I doubt that Herman Melville had an editor – if he had, that editor would have told him to get rid of all that boring stuff about whaling: ‘Cut to the chase, Herman’,” [Moore] told the New Statesman in 2011.

Thus we see two root causes of the problems with Jerusalem. First, Moore’s thinks no editor can touch his "masterpiece." Moore and Moore alone is the best person for the job. (He’d probably also represent himself if he ever stood trial.) Moore is dead wrong. This book really needed an editor. It could have easily been 20% of its final size and at least been considered a workable story and novel.

Second, Moore's self-comparison to Melville demonstrates a level of ego that is pervasive throughout the book. And that goes to how I can best sum up Jerusalem. It is a novel of arrogance, ego and hubris. “Look at me! Aren’t I clever? See how many different styles of writing I can pack into 1200 pages? Isn’t that just genius? See me describe even the slightest event in the most unnecessarily colorful language ever put to paper. See how I can make even the tamping out of a cigarette sound like an ode to stars twinkling in the heavens? Have you ever seen anyone display such genius in writing before?”

In addition to ever changing styles of writing that serve to annoy more than to add to the story, Moore has non-sensical chapters. There is a chapter on the history of currency. There is a chapter section written in Olde English or Scottish or some other dialect that makes a swath of the book incomprehensible to the human ear. There are chapters used to describe dozens of pieces of art at an art show - without adding any real punch to the story. And Moore seems a bit obsessed with trying to develop language that combines blatant pornography with fine literature. It doesn’t work. It just looks like Moore is obsessed with ejaculation.

The novel is broken down into three books. That alone should tell you something. If Moore really wanted to publish this work then why not do it as a trilogy? (Although I still think one book of around 200 pages would have served best.) The only reason I can see is that he wanted to produce one of the world’s longest books by putting into one work every literary idea that was filling up his idea journal. Again, arrogance and ego. Or, at the very least, a complete disregard for the reader's enjoyment.

I could go on and on but then I’d be no better than Moore. All I can say is avoid this book. It is, by far, the least favorite thing I’ve read/listened to in my life. I would recommend this book to no one.

38 people found this helpful

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Ambitious Wrestling Match with the Visionary

Members of the Vernall family have been charged – more accurately “named” – by heaven to tend to the “edges of creation.” And, in this massive, visions-of-the -holy-saturated, occasional masterpiece, Alan Moore shows us several generations of the clan as they spend their lives tending to the possible holiness of the Boroughs, a working class neighborhood of Northampton. And that’s only book one. The subsequent two books – equally large – expand that same story into a kind of heaven that exists above and below the Boroughs and then into what it means to attempt art that examines the intersection of the holy and eternal with the everyday world we know. In all, this is exhausting, but that’s not a bad thing. It has moments of real inspiration, brilliance perhaps, and it’s ambitious in ways hard to imagine from someone who has spent so much time in the world of commercial comic books – even if he did write the revolutionary Watchmen. There are certainly portions that could be cut; some are redundant and some demystify stronger parts. But the sheer weight of this is part of its excellence. Don’t pick this up unless you’re willing to risk weeks’ worth of obligation. Do pick it up if you’re willing to get lost in a book that’s trying to marry poetic madness to our seemingly ordinary contemporary world. Moore takes the name of his book, one on which he is reported to have spent most of the last decade (and this at a time when, had he chosen, he could no doubt have continued in the far more lucrative work of creating graphic novels that Hollywood was lined up to film), from William Blake’s epic illuminated poem. Like Blake, his overarching goal is to trace the residue of the deep holy as it manifests itself in the world around him. Like Blake, Moore is attempting to write about the potential of vision – “four-fold vision” as Blake put it and as Moore quotes it in chapter 9 and elsewhere. The central idea of both Moore’s and Blake’s conception is the claim that our world isn’t fallen, that England or “Albion” isn’t mere ordinariness but one edge of heaven. Blake looked at London and Moore at Northampton, but the point is the same. Each suggests that if we can push ourselves past a thick crust of contemporary culture – for Blake it was the rigidity of the scientific revolution, what he called “Newton’s night” and for Moore it’s the sheen of consumerism – we can see that Jerusalem herself, that emanation of heaven, sits on top of the streets and fallen people we walk past every day. The first book is simply stunning. He takes one character after another, spins his or her life forward and back, and culminates in a moment of vision. There’s beauty in the ordinariness of the spurs to the visionary moment. One man sees “angles” in the upper reaches of a church. Another goes temporarily mad in the middle of his foundry work. Another sees a painting begin to speak. Another is moved by the beauty of an infant being pushed in a stroller by her mother. And one simply chokes on a throat lozenge. There’s a structure to the method, but Moore is gifted enough that it, in the first book, it doesn’t become predictable. He brings each of his separate characters to life, only very slowly showing how their lives intersect, not simply in their moment but across the generations. We learn eventually that ghosts walk everywhere among us and that, to them, time is no more bewildering than distance or height. If we could see properly, we would understand that nothing ever ends. Or, to quote Blake again, we would realize that “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite.” The bulk of the second book turns on the mystical experience of three-year-old Mick Warren who, having choked on his throat lozenge and been pronounced dead, spends several chapters traipsing about a kind of heaven as part of a group of urchins calling themselves the Dead Dead Gang. In the course of his adventures, Mick sees the world from above and below, and as it was and will be. He experiences a series of visions that stamp him as a Vernall – as he indeed is from his mother’s side – and give him access to a mysticism the rest of us can only imagine. Compared to the rest of the novel, this section is the least inspired. It’s disappointing – by comparison at least – to see the attempt at serious visionary work suddenly filtered through the eyes of a child. The opaque quality of revelation gives way to something more primary-colored. We even get a somewhat condescending exposition from the devil Asmodeus giving too much clarity to what the first book largely implies. The third book turns mostly on the run-up to an art exhibit of work by Alma Warren, Mick’s sister, who has heard his stories from the mystical world. He forgot but briefly recalled them after an industrial accident. Her paintings chronicle them in some fashion. I enjoyed the first book of the novel the most and appreciated but was glad to be finished with the second, but I find myself thinking about the third one most of all. In some ways, whether the novel is a success depends on how effective Alma’s work comes across. At one point in the final chapter, Alma explicitly worries that she might have failed, that she might – rather than capture a genuine mystical vision – have managed only a grand act of nostalgia. Blake may be the central inspiration here, but, striking as his work is, there is a sometimes conventional quality to its composition. As the character Handsome John puts it at one point when he is admiring one of Blake’s painting, “He drew like a baby.” Alma, working in papier mache and capturing a child’s adventures, risks some of the same. Perhaps more broadly, an even greater indictment is that chapter after chapter is filtered through a single consciousness. Each is a distinct and limited focus even as the individual in question typically wins a visionary moment. It’s inspiring to see those different consciousnesses radiate out in the different chapters of the first book. By the third, the question is whether they knit together in full. There are glances in what Alma accomplishes that gives a sense she has succeeded. As she proposes at one point, “Art saves things from time.” She suggests her project is “a glorious mythology of loss” and that she is attempting to understand, “The development of English as a visionary language” that has served the likes of John Bunyan, John Clare, William Blake, and James Joyce. In one inspired passage that feeds into her work, we see the world from the point of view of the Builders, cosmic architects of human fate who use snooker cues as their tools. Two Builders get into a fight over the fate of young Mick and that explains how he dies temporarily and then later recovers his memories. When they fight at the start of the third book, one Builder reflects on his struggle with the other, “We know everything. He blacks my eye, and China’s great leap forward plunges it into an economic abyss. I collapse his nose, and Castro comes to power in Cuba. From my split lip dribbles structuralism, rock and roll and hovercrafts. We pick the golden clots before they are ready, and the Belgian Congo blooms with severed heads. Of course we stride among you, thigh deep in your politics and your mythology. We wade through the pink, map-scrap pebbles of your disintegrating Commonwealth. We march in a black tide on Washington. We juggle satellites and Francis Bacon. We are Builders” A bit later from the same section, we get one of the boldest claims for the nature of art and its reflection of life: “We bomb Guernica just to create that painting.” That sort of visionary claim, in the very end, is the hope of the power in Alma’s work. She’s an artist who risks the nostalgic and the conventional, but she’s also someone who wants to play in the very furnace of creation. The jury remains out on whether this is a satisfying culmination of the novel’s early promise. As I reflect on it, though, I think that uncertainty may be part of Moore’s ultimate goal. Some of this work remains as straightforward as the comic books of his childhood and early career. Some of it nevertheless aspires to be a 21st century Blake. As Alma says to the poet John Clare when she encounters him in a vision near the end, “We’re either all of us saints or none of us are.” There’s a good case for either of these, and that’s a central joy of this work that tries, and maybe succeeds, in seeing beyond the world we see every day.

2 people found this helpful

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Extraordinary

Made me want to start over at the beginning. A combination of David Mitchell, Gaiman and Pratchett, and other world-in-a-grain-of-sand visionaries

7 people found this helpful

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Simon Vance brings Moore's words to solid breath.

An amazing work, an amazing performance. I read the book while listening to Vance read it along and aloud.

4 people found this helpful

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Get ready for an adventure!

What did you like best about this story?

I will be thinking about this novel the rest of my life. There is no favorite scene or character...the book in its entirety is a magical hodgepodge that fills the senses...laughter..sadness..wonderment..loss and life.

I will indeed be looking more closely at the people I pass by on the street. Do I really see them? And if I do, do they see me? And do I see them now, or at another time and space.

Any additional comments?

Simon Vance turns black and white words on paper into a performance of breathtaking proportions!

9 people found this helpful

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Irritated

I have a history of liking Moore's work but this audiobook did me in after a few chapters. It may be better, for me, in print as all of the long, elaborate, floral descriptions were lost on me. At time its as if the character would walk 5 feet but it would take 10 paragraphs to describe their experience in doing so. Writing about details that aren't needed. Yes yes style and such but I could not appreciate it listening. The narration... I liked at first... but then the way each sentence trailed off the exact same way... and the cadence was the same.... it was too forced, for me, as it seemed they were trying to sound deep or dramatic. Im sure this will chafe some fans backsides but I listen to audiobooks on my hour commute each way to work and this audiobook (what I listened to), was painful. I was really excited when I purchased it too...

15 people found this helpful