Burnt into Memory
October 19, 2013
Title: Voice of the Fire
By: Alan Moore
Alan Moore is best known for his graphic novels that have been butchered by Hollywood (Watchmen, V for Vendetta, etc.). He is less known for being a practicing occultist and for his single “conventional” novel, Voice of the Fire. To be clear, I'm using “conventional” with regard to the medium alone, as it's a pretty strange book in all other ways.
Voice of the Fire consists of twelve narratives spread across six millenia, the scattered stories unified by place and season. The place is Northampton, England, where Moore has lived his entire life. The season is the week between Samhain/All Hallows Eve and Guy Fawkes Night. There are recurring motifs, which Neil Gaiman's introduction describes as “the suits of a deranged tarot deck.” As befits both the title of the book and the season it is set in, sacrificial bonfires and ghostly memories abound, along with otherworldly black canines and heads separated from bodies. So-called coincidences are at the heart of magic, and the ones that Moore discovers within Northampton's landscape and history are uncannily consistent.
I recommend skipping the first chapter and returning to it later, as it is nearly fifty pages written in the extremely limited syntax and vocabulary of a dimwitted Neolithic orphan (sample passage, describing clouds: “In bove of I is many sky-beasts, big and grey. Slow is they move, as they is with no strong in they.”). Not the easiest way to get into a story. By contrast, the rest of the book flaunts Moore's dense and fevered prose. Highlights include the posthumous griping of the severed head of Francis Tresham (one of Guy Fawkes's co-conspirators), the defiant inner thoughts of a young witch being burned at the stake, and Moore's first-person narrative as he wanders the streets of his hometown on a psychedelic-enhanced derive. This book will imprint itself upon your memory like the hissing of flames.