Monday, 12 May 2014

Alan Moore: Storyteller

Gary Spencer Millidge Alan Moore: Storyteller (2011)

I probably wouldn't have bothered with this one had I not seen a copy going cheap in Half Price Books, although on the other hand, I wasn't actually aware of its existence until I saw a copy going cheap in Half Price Books. It's a lovely book, a big, fat hardcover thing with a compact disc and glossy pages but twenty-five squid would have been a lot to pay were I still living in England and thus obliged to frequent those miserable walletectomy centres that pass for book stores. Besides, I read Lance Parkin's wonderful Magic Words only a few months ago, so another Alan Moore biography seemed excessive, or would have done were it not for this one reproducing so much artwork, particularly from early fanzines and the like.

Alan Moore is of course the most famous comic bloke of all time, an excessively talented author and by all accounts a lovely man about whom quite enough has probably already been written. Certainly between this and Lance Parkin's biography I can't see that we'll need any more of these for a while. Of the two, Magic Words is, on balance, possibly the superior book, or at least it's the one I myself preferred, it being the one which maintained what I would consider an appropriate level of detail from start to finish. Storyteller comes close, but spends too much time on all of those magical performances, most of which could have been succinctly covered within a single chapter; at least on the grounds that Moore's run on Swamp Thing isn't broken up into a chapter for each issue.

This could of course represent an element of prejudice on my part regarding Moore's magical efforts. It's not that they aren't interesting or even relevant as part of his life's work, but magic, like sexuality, seems such a subjective thing that I tend to feel it rarely communicates well to those outside the experience, and I've never quite worked out why it even needs to be communicated to those outside the experience. Indeed, doing so suggests to me a hunger for witnesses sprung from a lack of confidence. Subsequently, without the buffer of fiction, ritual performances of genuine vitality can simply come across as dull and indulgent, or at worst, Grant Morrison shaving the number 23 into his pubes and jumping up and down screaming look at me, I'm weird!

Similarly, whilst it was nice to also get a compact disc of Moore's music, it's another aspect of the man I personally find less interesting. He's blessed with a great voice which is entirely suited to the spoken word pieces, but less so to the less inspired musical accompaniment resulting in tracks which can't seem to decide whether they're principally narrative in function, or ambient music with added monologue for the sake of atmosphere. Similarly, whilst the numerous songs are as lyrically wonderful as you would expect, they musically tend to sound like the efforts of that bloke from work who's always banging on about his guitar and has been recording his own demos on the computer; so much so that there's even a token cod-reggae number. There is a dry, workmanlike quality to the composition, competently mixed without too much strain on anyone's imagination, and what should have been full-on Tiger Lillies apeshit actually sounds a bit like the work of Mitch Benn or one of those other Godawful indie music Richard Stilgoe types; and yeah, I know David J is on some of this stuff, but quite frankly Bauhaus were wank even at the best of times.

So Storyteller uses up a lot of bandwidth on material for which you probably had to be there at the time, at least more so than I noticed was the case with Magic Words; but nevertheless, the rest is fascinating and nicely brought together, and it's particularly good to see a few of those Sounds strips again, having spent the last three decades kicking myself for giving away my four foot high stack of copies of the music paper. I know they're all online somewhere, but I'd prefer to wait for some sort of reprint than read them off a screen, even though that will probably never happen. Additionally, there was plenty I picked up from Storyteller which wasn't apparent from the Parkin book: that St. Pancras Panda was still better than whatever shit Grant Morrison was selling to D.C. Thompson at the time, despite his protestations; and there's the number of people mentioned in this book I actually know, or have known in real non-internet life, which is all quite weird, if admittedly of no relevance to anything.

In summary, there was probably more here than I wanted, but my understanding of himself is nevertheless increased, so I'm not complaining.

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