Announcement

Collapse

Welcome to Moorcock's Miscellany

Dear reader,

Many people have given their valuable time to create a website for the pleasure of posing questions to Michael Moorcock, meeting people from around the world, and mining the site for information. Please follow one of the links above to learn more about the site.

Thank you,
Reinart der Fuchs
See more
See less

Mother London and Woolf's Between the Acts

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Mother London and Woolf's Between the Acts

    Dear Mr Moorcock,

    I am currently working on a PhD project that considers the importance of World War II in contemporary fiction. I wonder if you would be willing to respond to a query that has arisen from my reading of Mother London. Having read – and very much enjoyed – the novel several times, I have noted some interesting correspondences between your book and another significant novel in which World War II looms large: Virginia Woolf’s Between the Acts. One similarity between the two texts that has particularly struck me relates to their unusual use of the �stream-of-consciousness’ technique. In BA there are several key moments at which characters register the thoughts of others without any words being spoken; in ML this �telepathic’ element of the main characters’ streams of consciousness has even greater importance. It would seem to be the case that Woolf is attempting, through this device, to convey a sense of the attenuation of private experience under the conditions of total war: her characters’ private worlds are radically compromised since even their thoughts may be accessible to (and accessed by) others. I wonder if something similar is happening in ML. If �traditional’ stream of consciousness – associated most closely with Joyce, Faulkner, Richardson, and early Woolf, and concerned with representing the inner experience of an autonomous individual – is a characteristic of modernist writing, is the variation of the technique found in BA and ML a postmodernist mutation? I was interested to read in an interview (http://www.cold-print.freeserve.co.uk/moorcock.html) that you conceive of the proto-postmodernism of yourself, Ballard, and Aldiss as a response to the war.

    The specific question I would very much appreciate an answer to is: have you read Between the Acts (I understand from other questions that you read and admire Woolf), and, if so, did it in any way exert an influence on Mother London? Needless to say, any other thoughts that you (or other readers) might have on the above would also be of great interest.

    Many thanks for your time, and for writing a novel that has provided not only much food for thought regarding the significance of WWII in the British literary tradition, the evolution of the stream-of-consciousness technique, and other such esoteric concerns, but also an amusing, engaging, and deeply moving reading experience.

    Very best wishes,
    Paul Crosthwaite
    School of English
    University of Newcastle upon Tyne

  • #2
    Thanks. This reply is hurried and off the top of my head, since I'm getting ready to leave for Spain shortly. It's flattering to see ML and BTA mentioned in the same context.
    I read Between the Acts so long ago that I can't remember it all that clearly (to be fair, my memory can get hazy about Mother London, too), but if it was an influence it wasn't a conscious one. What I was trying to make the 'stream of consciousness' do in Mother London was to act as a kind of chorus, to capture the variety of language and experience of the citizens, blending Jamaican patois with, for instance, a bit of Turkish, some UK dialect and so on. So, yes, it's a very different intention to most modernist uses of the technique. Of course, I had no intention of the 'telepathy' being taken literally, any more than I meant the time machine in Behold the Man to be understood primarily on a literal level.
    My instincts, as I say in Death is No Obstacle, aren't those of a typical modernist. My roots are in journalism and popular fiction and my instinct is to address the reader, to collaborate with the reader and, where possible, to represent the reader. I shared this with the late Angus Wilson, who always felt he needed the reader's authority before advancing his techniques -- No Laughing Matter, As If By Magic and so on.
    I'm not sure Woolf ever felt this, any more than Joyce did. Another writer who shared similar ideas was the late Angela Carter, who came from almost exactly the same background as me. Most of my friends who are writers also reject notions of individualism found in so many modernists. Ballard doesn't, but his experience was rather different. The greatest experience most of us who experienced WW2 had was that of community and I do think, in my case at least, that this was formative. I would guess that Carter and Wilson would have agreed. Ackroyd and I are inclined to agree, too. Sinclair, too. Experience of community united by fear, perhaps, but also of community overcoming fear, of resisting terror. I suspect that this, as much as anything, was the reason for the Labour landslide of 1945. Many of us in Europe had hopes that 9/11 would reproduce this experience in the US and were very disappointed when it didn't happen!
    I'd be happy to continue this discussion elsewhere and will check to see if you have an email address I can write to. If not, perhaps you could let me have one.

    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
    The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
    Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


    Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
    The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
    Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

    Comment


    • #3
      Dear Mr Moorcock,

      Many thanks for your generous and interesting response.

      A kind of 'modernist' retreat into subjectivity, individuality, etc (whether as an artist or a citizen) would certainly seem to be a difficult position to sustain under conditions such as those of the Blitz; this kind of situation would, I suppose, force an individual to acknowledge the experience of others, as well as such 'public' forces as war, politics, economics - whether they wanted to or not.

      I would be delighted to continue this discussion: my email address is [email protected]

      Very best wishes,
      Paul

      Comment


      • #4
        Yes. Henry Green's response is certainly interesting, since it to some degree discusses the problem. Bowen's response was, I'd say, pretty modernist, too. Angus Wilson's was to draw increasingly on Victorian values, if you like, while still trying to retain modernist obsessions. He used stream of consciousness in No Laughing Matter, which I still believe is his masterpiece, yet the approach of the novel looked in many ways back to late Victorians. Wilson was a civil servant, of course, during WW2 and helped supervise the transfer of the British Library out of London, echoed in the scene in Old Men at the Zoo where the zoo is evacuated. He was always torn, I'd say, between notions of public debate and private experience.

        Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
        The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
        Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


        Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
        The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
        Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

        Comment

        Working...
        X