May 25, 2013

AM Portrait: Alan Moore and The Mystery of Transubstantiation

Illustration by Luís Dourado
Italian writer Giuseppe Pili contributed to the sold-out Alan Moore: Portrait of an Extraordinary Gentleman (2003, Abiogenesis Press, page 33) with a really interesting short text about Moore and... transubstantiation.

A special thank to the author for the permission to post his contribution on this blog.

Alan Moore and The Mystery of Transubstantiation
© Giuseppe Pili

When we solve a riddle or crack an enigma, our spirit is pervaded by a subtle pleasure. Are we enticed by the complexity of the enigma, by the riddle-maker’s skill, or by the confirmation of our abilities? There is no use in trying to tell these elements apart: their mutual permeation is the alchemy underlying the game.

There definitely is a difference between playing and being on the receiving end of a narrative – it depends on our degree of involvement. Listening or reading implies some passivity, while playing forces us into a direct confrontation.

We might define Moore’s stories as “ludic interactions”. Calling them “games” would be reductive: they are complex and refined challenges, which gradually screen the players. Going one step further, we could even talk of true initiations into Moore’s world. We learned that the Master does not speak to just anybody, but only to those who have the talent – or the burden – of understanding stories first with the mind and only then with the heart. Admittedly, this pleases us. The symmetries, the references, the ellipses, the paraphrases, the quotations are all part of an architecture which entices and hypnotises us. Once we get trapped inside Moore’s reality, we become its prey: we no longer understand where our everyday experience ends and his realism begins, we cannot tell a true dialogue from a simulation à la Moore.

We know the game well and we want to play it, if possible, with minimal variations. As we read the first page, the opening panel sweeps us away: the opening lines are complex and convoluted. We are bewildered, but not frightened: we know that, at the right moment, the Master will guide us. Then a structure begins to take shape. Recognisable, reassuring elements start to appear. For us, it is a relief; luckily, we are not completely at the mercy of Chaos. We have an irrational faith in the existence of an eventual Meaning and with Moore there is always a Meaning. Thus, as we keep reading, we become aware that what was originally obscure had its own justification after all. The second half of the story discloses the first and we feel the thrill. “Brilliant”… “how does he do it”… “how does he manage”… “such a balance of form”… “such daring geometry”. Our passion lights up very gradually and is incomprehensible to those who do not live inside their mind.

The ending succeeds in squaring the circle. We reassemble the pieces of the jigsaw in a moment of self-complacency. Here comes a retroactive aesthetic delight, exquisitely intellectual. We are pervaded by an unconscious and narcissistic pleasure in our abilities. We have understood Alan Moore. We have rightfully been initiated into his Church of Mysteries. Our lips have received the Host of his spirit.

Through the might and magic of this artistic transubstantiation, Alan Moore is no longer the creator of the magic. Now he has become both the magic itself and its officiants. He is part of us.

Reciprocity is the secret of his fascination: after the last page, irrespective of the man living in Northampton, Alan Moore is us.

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