J2.08 Malignant, Refractory Spirits

Annotations for Jerusalem by Alan Moore
Book 2 – Mansoul – Malignant, Refractory Spirits

Page 639 – titled Malignant, Refractory Spirits

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2 thoughts on “J2.08 Malignant, Refractory Spirits”

  1. 3-28-17
    Jerusalem Book 2 Chapter 8: Malignant, Refractory Spirits

    DATE = 1959…ish

    • September 20, 1675 during the Great Fire

    • Several different eras all happening at once when they’re on the Ultraduct



    • I’m not exactly the most well-read person, so forgive me if the following observation is moot, and/or I’m just noticing something that is actually a common trend in modern novel writing or something.

    When Moore writes the dialogue in Jerusalem, he always starts with a new paragraph, and these dialogue paragraphs always consist solely of dialogue, without any dialogue-interrupting narration. For example, on page 640, the penultimate paragraph is narration, followed by three paragraphs of solid dialogue by Phyllis.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that in this book, as far as I can tell, Moore never interrupts dialogue with narrative words such as something like this (random made-up stupid example of normal dialogue one might find in a novel):

    “Hey there,” exclaimed John Doe. “How can I help you?” he asked, inquisitively.

    Okay, that was a dumb example. Here’s an example from a real book (Catch-22 by Joseph Heller):

    “It’s Popinjay’s name, sir,” Lieutenant Scheisskopf explained.

    Moore never uses the standard dialogue-then-comma-then-end-quotation-mark-then-narration-explaining-who-said-it method. By not doing this, he requires the reader to infer who says what dialogue from the narration in the preceding paragraph (and sometimes from the narration in the following paragraph).

    This then made me think back to the prelude (page 17, last par), when Michael and Alma meet up at a bar and one of them says:

    “Well, if it isn’t Warry Warren. How in God’s name are you, Warry?”

    I remember thinking, “well Warry must be the nickname of either Alma or Michael – but which one of them just said that line??” because it wasn’t made clear from the preceding paragraph. The next paragraph describes Alma’s voice, thus clueing the reader in that it was Alma who said it. (And then it turns out that “Warry” is the nickname they each call each other, so it technically could have plausibly been either of them saying that line– which is maybe the reason Moore chose to obfuscate which character said it when the reader first reads that line of dialogue haha.)

    Maybe I’m reading too much into this, or maybe this is actually a prose technique that’s unique to this book. Or maybe it’s somewhere in the middle haha. Is anyone else aware of any other novel that doesn’t use any narration in the dialogue paragraphs?


    • Page 641, par 3: The Salamander sisters were first seen in the Boroughs in the 1260s, when Henry the Third “ordered the town burned dayn and ransacked as a punishment for sidin’ with de Montfort and the rebel students.”

    As an adult, Michael thinks about this in Bk1 Ch12 Choking on a Tune.

    • Page 642, last par through 643, par 3: The Salamander sisters don’t actually light the fire themselves, it’s more like they influence an already existing situation to create a domino effect (maybe like a naturally-occurring Rube Goldberg device) leading to the spread of the fire. Here, the initial flame was already lit, and it was the sisters getting the baby’s attention that ultimately lead to the Great Fire happening.

    • Page 644, par 2-4: So fire elementals are salamanders, female ghosts are rabbits, and male ghosts are pigeons – does everything supernatural in this book have an animal counterpart? Is every animal eventually represented at some point? If so, I can’t wait to find out what a duck billed platypus represents!

    • Page 644, par 4: We get the breakdown of the elementals.


    UNDINES = WATER. They have snail shells for eyes, and one named The Nene Hag almost got Marjorie once.

    SYLPHS = WIND. Described as “horrible old men who stand a mile high.”

    GNOMES = EARTH. Also known as “Urks” or “Urchins.” Incidentally, the Dead Dead Gang have been descriptively referred to as “urchins” a few times (for instance just a few pages back on page 641, last par). I thought this was because they would look urchin-ish because of the trails they leave in the ghost-seam (combined with the awkward way kids wobble about haha), but perhaps this may be more significant?

    • Page 647, par 5: Marjorie realizes that it was the barrels of tannin that helped the fire spread so fast. Ah, tanneries – the meth labs of the 1600s haha.

    • Page 649, par 5: “It took very little time for the humanity-filled bladder of the burning marketplace to empty itself through the pinched urethra of the Welsh House, flooding with a great sense of relief into the backstreets further east.”

    I don’t want to say Moore is being insensitive, but he’s definitely “taking the piss out of” this disaster with that metaphor!

    (I’m not sure if I’m using that expression correctly, but I believe it’s a British expression meaning to make fun of (which I believe I learned from John Constantine haha.))

    It’s also funny how the looter who dies in the fire is immediately ghosted back into the fire, even more terrified of it than before he died.

    • Page 650, last par: “Deep in his phantom memory of a tummy he could feel the tickle of the flames, developing to an unbearably delightful and insistent itch that felt, if anything, much, much too good. It made him want to do things just on impulse without any thought for whether they were right or not.”

    So if ghosts feels fire it influences them to want to act like the Salamander sisters?

    • Page 652, par 9: Phyllis vs. John’s point of view of the Great Fire and its legacy is interesting. They both agree that the Great Fire was the reason the east part of town was rebuilt while the Boroughs were neglected by default. John is angry about this, noting that if the wind had been blowing in the opposite direction, maybe it would have been the Boroughs that got rebuilt, and they would have not had to grow up in a slum. Phyllis, on the other hand, embraces her slummy background, stating that that’s what made her who she is and “things only work out one way, and that’s the way they ‘ave to work out.”

    • Page 654, par 2: “The bridge was held up by two rows of the semi-transparent posts, one on each side. The problem was that if you trained your eyes on what you thought to be the bottom of a nearside strut and traced it upwards, it turned out to be supporting the far side of the construction. Similarly, if you focused on the upper reaches of a pillar that was holding up the walkway’s closest edge and followed it straight down towards its base, it would invariably end up being in the further row of columns. When you took in the whole thing at once, it looked right. It was only when you tried to make some sense of how it all fitted together that you realized the impossibility of the arrangement you were staring at.”

    This is reminiscent of impossible shapes, or impossible objects, some of which can be found here:


    M.C. Escher also played around with impossible-shapes-as-architectural-structures in pieces like these:




    • Page 655, par 6: “Michael was beginning to get used to how the builders talked. First they would speak the gibberish that was their version of a word or sentence, then that nonsense would unroll itself inside the listener’s head into a long speech full of thunderous and ringing phrases. …Finally, as Michael understood it, once you’d listened to them talking and absorbed it all as best you could, you sort of came up with your own translation.”

    That’s interesting. We’ve seen the builders’ words unfold and unpack in characters’ heads so far, but I believe this is the first mention of a third stage of that communication – the message converting into the listener’s own translation.

    This builder’s particular message, once Michael formed his own translation, is: “The Dead Dead Gang? Why, I’ve read your book! So I’m the angle that you met when you were at the Ultraduct in chapter twelve, ‘The Riddle of the Choking Child,’ and then again at the end of the chapter. What an honour.”

    Holy shit! The builder has read Jerusalem?? Specifically mentioning a particular chapter?? The chapter name is different, though, as in our reality chapter 12 is titled “Choking on a Tune.” “The Riddle of the Choking Child” sounds like something Phyllis would name one of the Dead Dead Gang adventures, yet in Bk2 Ch5 Flatland she already dubbed their adventure with Michael as “The Enigma of the Soppy Little Kid.”

    Later, Philip Doddridge tells the Dead Dead Gang that his wife Mercy “often reads your exploits to our eldest daughter, Tetsy” (page 660, par 5). He also talks to them of what he has “read from their most entertaining novel” (page 662, par 1).

    Mercy Doddridge also alludes to “your ‘Choking Child’ chapter, saying all the parts of dialogue that we’ve already pored over a dozen times” (page 663, par 3). And then later Tetsy tells them that her “favorite chapter wiz the one with that hateful black-shirted fellow blundering around Upstairs whilst suffering from delirium in his mortal body” (page 667, par 2).

    • Page 656, last par – this is a good line when several different eras are happening at once: “Horses’ heads grew from the roofs of cars and all the while the castle was constructed and demolished, rising, falling, rising, falling, like a great grey lung of history that breathed crusades, saints, revolutions and electric trains.”

    • Page 659, par 5 – some more info on the three Boroughs:

    “Well, it’s like the normal living neighbor’ood, that’s the First Borough, like I told yer. Then above that there’s the Second Borough, what we call Upstairs. And up above that…well, there’s the Third Borough. He’s sort of a rent-collector and he’s sort of a policeman at the same time. He runs all the Boroughs. He makes sure that there’s justice above the street and everthin’ like that. You never see ‘im, no ‘less yer a builder.”

    • Page 666, par 1: Tetsy explains about the Puck’s Hat/Bedlam Jenny/Minerva’s Truffles, saying “They’re really all we have to eat up here, although there wiz a sort of ectoplasm-butter you can get from ghost-cows.”

    Ghost-cows? Holy cow!

    • Page 668, last par: Michael starts staring at the tiles on Doddridge’s floor, which contain comics-like images within them, representing moments of Doddridge’s life. For a few pages, Michael keeps getting sucked into each tile and sucked back out, experiencing Doddridge’s experiences as Doddridge once did.

    “There was no escaping the implacable progression of the tiles once Michael had surrendered to the tale’s compelling undertow” (page 672, par 2).

    Since these tiles are causing Michael to simultaneously experience two consciousnesses back-and-forth within his head, there’s a TILE-er Durden joke in there somewhere haha.


    • Page 639, par 1: “In the afterlife, nobody seemed to mind if you’d not got your clothes on. This approach appealed to Michael, who had never understood what all the fuss was over in the first place.”

    • Page 652, par 4: “Phyllis shook her head in a briefly-enduring display of features, much like when you draw a face in ballpoint pen on a balloon then stretched the rubber out.”

    • Page 656, last par – when several different eras are happening at once: “Women in ridiculously tiny skirts superimposed themselves unwittingly on Roundhead puritans, briefly becoming composites with fishnet tights and pikestaffs.”

    • Page 657, par 5: “All right, then. Wizzle you be my girlfriend?”



    • Page 674, par 1-2: While Michael is experiencing Doddridge’s memories through the tiles he learns that “Mary Wills the prophetess had told him that their first attempt to bear a child would end in sadness. Still, perhaps on this occasion she should be proved wrong. After all, regarding his position on determinism…”

    That’s how the paragraph ends, implying that Doddridge does not believe in determinism. The next paragraphs starts with this:

    “He stood in the darkening church at Castle Hill and wept; gazed through a quivering salt lens at the small grave stone set amongst the floor tiles under the communion table.”

    Powerful juxtaposition of paragraphs! It neither proves the prophetess’ prediction right or wrong, it just makes Doddridge’s loss of his child all the more sad, in a salt-in-the-wound sense (where the wound is the loss of his child, and the salt is that the prophecy likely fucked with his position on determinism). Also – “quivering salt lens” – damn, what a description.

    Further, Doddridge’s experience here parallels that of May Warren from Bk1 Ch10 “The Breeze That Plucks Her Apron.” Not only did adult May lose baby May as an infant, but Mrs. Gibbs, the deathmonger who delivered baby May, seemed to realize during the birth that baby May was not long for this world (although I don’t believe she made that apparent to adult May).

    • Page 676, last par – Regarding “how the different entities related to each other, all the devils and the ordinary people and the builders, and how all of these connected up to the mysteries ‘Third Borough,’” Mr. Aziel (a builder) says the following:

    “They fold up into you. You fold up into us. We fold up into him.”

    To this, Doddridge responds by asking “if, anywhere in this ingenious arrangement, any of us ever truly had Free Will?”

    Mr. Aziel replies “No” (which is apparently the same word in builder-speak as it is in English), followed with “Did you miss it?”


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