HRSFANS Book Club – read-a-LONG up to our February 13, 2017 meeting: Alan Moore’s Jerusalem, “Book One—The Boroughs.”
Reminder: proposal is now that the official Book Club plan for February 13, 2017 meeting be to discuss Jerusalem‘s “Book One—The Boroughs”: the first third of the book.
This post has as much as I’ve got plot spoilers for “Book One—The Boroughs,” based on content in the first two chapters of “Book Two—Mansoul.”
The point of this post is to give a plot overview to people who want a baseline for discussion on Monday, whether you’ve read through the end of Book One or not. If you don’t want such a baseline, don’t read further.
This post has minimal concept/perspective spoilers.
Thank you, Captain Exposition
So, here’s your overview of Book One (with parts specific to the narrator’s role redacted, so as to limit the spoilers to Book One, NOT also Book Two):
[Narrator name redacted] had heard of Alma Warren. She’d grow up to be a moderately famous artist, doing paperback and record covers, who had intermittent visionary spasms. … So, Michael Warren was the pretty brother of alarming-looking Alma Warren, who could somehow entice fiends to sit for her. And then there was the strange event of cryptic import that would take place … in 2006, with which the woman artist would be heavily involved. …[T]he pieces started tumbling into intriguing new arrangements. Something positively Byzantine was going on…. There was all that business of a female saint in the twenty-fives…. That affair had tenuous links with the occurrences in 2006, links that related to the Ancestry of Alma Warren …
And her brother.
Oh, now, this was interesting. They were siblings, and so had their ancestry in common.
That meant that Michael Warren was a Vernall too. It didn’t matter if he knew it, and mattered less if he liked it. He was tied by blood-bonds to the old profession, to the ancient trade.
…[T]he greater part of Mansoul’s unique local terminology came from the Norman or the Saxon, phrases such as Frith Bohr, Porthimoth di Norhan and the like. Vernall was older, though…, since, what the Roman occupation? And … it might derive from earlier traditions still, from Druids or antlered Hob-men that preceded them, weird figures crouching in the smoke-drifts of antiquity. Though Vernall was a job description, it described an occupation that was based on an archaic world-view, one which had not been in evidence for some two thousand years and one which did not see reality in terms the modern world would recognize.
A Vernall tended to the boundaries and corners, and it was in the mundane sense of a common verger that the term came to be understood throughout the Boroughs during medieval times. The ragged edges that comprised a Vernall’s jurisdiction, though, had not originally been limited to those weed-strangled margins of the mortal and material world alone.
The corners that a Vernall had traditionally marked and measured and attended to were those that bent into the fourth direction; were the junctions that existed between life and death, madness and sanity, between the Upstairs and the Downstairs of existence. Vernalls overlooked the crossroads of two very different planes, sentinels straddling a gulf that no one else could see. As such they would be prone to certain instabilities, yet at the same time often were recipient to more-than-normal insights, talents or capacities. In just the recent lineage of Michael Warren and his sister Alma, [narrator name redacted] could think of three or four striking examples of these odd hereditary tendencies. There had been Ernest Vernall, working on the restoration of St. Paul’s when he fell into conversation with a builder. Snowy, Vernall, Ernest’s fearless son, and Thursa, Ernest’s daughter, with her preternatural grasp of higher-space acoustics. There had been ferocious May, the deathmonger, and the magnificent and tragic Audrey Vernall, languishing at present in a run-down mental hospital abutting Berry Wood. Vernalls observed the corners of mortality, and watched the bend that all too often they would end up going round themselves.
…This clueless child, currently dead but in a few days [sic] time apparently alive, had been the cause of a colossal brawl between the Master Builders. More than this he was a Vernall by descent, related to a woman who was central to the crucial business that would take place in the spring of 2006. This forthcoming event was known, in Mansoul, as the Vernall’s Inquest. Much depended on it, not least the eventual destiny of certain damned souls….
I have some suspicion, also because of a mention later in this same chapter, and because of “Rough Sleepers,” that the last sentence is the tie-in to “ASBOs of Desire” and “Atlantis.”
And one more passage that sheds light on the points of the chapters “X Marks the Spot” and “Blind But Now I See,” and the part about transportation in “Do As You Darn Well Pleasey” –
For one thing, well over a thousand years ago the Master Builders chose this town to site their rood, their cross-stone, marking out this land’s load-bearing centre. There, down on the lowly district’s southeast corner, there is England’s crux. Out from this central point extends a web of lines, connective creases on the map of space-time linking one place with another, paths imprinted on teh fabric of reality by multiple human trajectories. People have journeyed to this crucial juncture from America, from Lambeth and, if we include the monk who followed the instructions of the builders in delivering their cornerstone, from Jerusalem itself. Though all these regions be remote from one another upon the material plane, seen from these higher mathematic reaches they are joined in the most gross and obvious of ways. Indeed, they’re almost the same place.