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What's it all about, Jerry?

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  • What's it all about, Jerry?

    Each year I pluck one of the Cornelius novels from my bookshelf and re-read it. The experience is always a satisfying mixture of novelty and familiarity, but I'm always left feeling that I've been excluded from an elaborate in-joke.

    Could any JC readers (particularly those who were alive and active in the 60's - which I sadly wasn't) give me some pointers for the next time I read the series.

    Thanks.

  • #2
    I was born in 1969 in the US, so my perspective isn't the one you want, but...

    I have only the smallest knowledge of London. I don't know a great deal of British history. I love Jerry anyway!

    My biggest advice is to enjoy the ride. Some aspects of Jerry's stories are time-bound, but their global theme of the search for identity in shifting contexts is timeless. Definitively. To me, this resonates most strikingly in The Condition of Muzak, but The English Assissin seems to strike the same the chord similarly.

    And then there is the whole Harlequin and Columbine thing...:)

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Doc
      And then there is the whole Harlequin and Columbine thing...:)
      Could you tell us more about this?
      The cat spread its wings and flew high into the air, hovering to keep pace with them as they moved cautiously toward the city. Then, as they climbed over the rubble of what had once been a gateway and began to make their way through piles of weed-grown masonry, the cat flew to the squat building with the yellow dome upon its roof. It flew twice around the dome and then came back to settle on Jhary's shoulder. - The King of the Swords

      Comment


      • #4
        From the commedia dell'arte. Harlequin gives his love freely and foolishly to Columbine, who is largely oblivious to how she has affected him, not realizing how recklessly Harlequin pursues her. It sometimes involves a third player (Pierott, who is even more sad than Harlequin) who complicates both sides of the relationship.

        Frank, Catherine, and Jerry often take turns in each of these archetypical roles.

        You can also see the structure in Romeo and Juliet.

        Comment


        • #5
          And I promise you there's no elaborate in-joke and you're not being excluded. Part of the point of the method is to allow you to make your own interpretations and take pleasure from them. I always assume that Jerry and Co are aware, in what has come to be considered a postmodernist sense, of all the interpretations of what they are doing.
          Sometimes, they even know they're in a work of fiction.

          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


          • #6
            Originally posted by Michael Moorcock
            Sometimes, they even know they're in a work of fiction.
            I'm guessing that theatrical players who improvise the commedia through its infinite scenarios love this.

            For what its worth, I laughed out loud when I read this. Something about the matter-of-fact tone with respect to the genuine lived experiences of fictional people. More postmodern irony for us :)

            Comment


            • #7
              Wolfrick's comment that he wasn't 'alive and active' in the '60's is suggestive: was he dormant? recovering from a Deep Fix? Or just in another zone at the time?
              I think we should be told!

              Comment


              • #8
                I honestly can't remember... paramnesia, what a bummer.

                Thanks for the replies everyone - knowing my subjective interpretation of Jerry C's world isn't missing 'the point' is comforting.

                However, with Mike's prolific output, I also worry that I might have missed a crucial reference to my favourite chrononauts hidden in a hard-to-obtain Eternal Champion tome, or something.

                I think :? I've read all the J.C, Bastable and End of Time volumes, but a Moorcock bibliography is as mutable as the stuff of Chaos...

                If anyone knows of any that haven't been conveniently omnibused in the last 10 years (but are still obtainable), please let me know.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Jerry and the 60s? Mmm. Juicy topic. In this regard the JC books reflect the ironic feedback loop between idealism and cynicism that marked those times. The decade began with extraordinary youthful energy and optimism, and ended with political, economic and psychic breakdown. Perhaps it's a story with a moral very much in agreement with the liberal tradition that is imbedded in some currents of middle class puritanism--much like you get from Hawthorne--that the high road to Utopia is really a byway to the pit.

                  But back to the sixties. You can see this theme in a number of works and artists. In my imagination I've always seen two of Jethro Tull's albums as musical expressions of what Mike is up to with Jerry: Thick as a Brick and A Passion Play. Frank Zappa (and Mike might cringe a bit at this) also strikes a resonant cord. See especially Joe's Garage, Acts I, II & III. There is that brilliant line at the end of Act I where the "Central Scrutinizer" poses the ultimate question as to why Joe's mind has been screwed up by consumer culture and the shallow values and faux reality represented by that culture. Joe has been singing pathetically over the loss of his true love, and the Central Scrutinizer asks: "Was it the girl, or was it the Music?" And the Scrutinizer nearly pronounces music as "muzak."

                  There is a similar moment in the film American Graffiti where Cindy Williams and Ron Howard are listening to some soppy love song, and begin imitating the emotions that the song is representing. Classic.

                  You might also have a look at Michelangelo Antonioni's film Blow Up for some wonderful picture postcards from the swinging London Jerry's growing up in. The scene with the young people drugging up at the Yardbird's concert is right there in Jerry land. Alongside today's bands the Yardbird's look tame, but keep in mind that these guys would have been viewed as being depraved at the time--indeed, visible are some of the strains and fractures that will split apart in the Yardbirds’ coming breakdown. More than other bands, perhaps, they lived that crisis between idealism and cynicism that marked the epoch. Indeed, this will form a theme in the "70s" band that emerged from the broken bits of the Yardbirds--Led Zeppelin--a band which got a lot of mileage from exposing their own charlatanism, their own commodification of hippie images, ideals, and optimism--a fitting musical vehicle for celebrating the beautiful people, as it were, uniting self-righteously in a grand act of political-sexual-religious-peace-sign-flashing-drug-eating-youth-culture-self-promotion--and then, under the combined weight of their stupidity, their shallowness, and their gullibility, going down like a lead balloon. Er, it was a glorious explosion to some. And it was, though it began to sound like muzak when heard at a distance, or when you got a little older.

                  Listen to the first couple of Who albums, then fast forward to Quadrophenia. You'll hear it there, and of course it’s a central theme in Quadrophenia.

                  I’m One

                  Every year is the same
                  And I feel it again,
                  I'm a loser - no chance to win.
                  Leaves start falling,
                  Come down is calling,
                  Loneliness starts sinking in.

                  But I'm one.
                  I am one.
                  And I can see
                  That this is me,
                  And I will be,
                  You'll all see
                  I'm the one.

                  Where do you get
                  Those blue blue jeans
                  Faded patched secret so tight.
                  Where do you get
                  That walk oh so lean
                  Your shoes and your shirts
                  All just right.
                  But I'm one etc.

                  I got a Gibson
                  Without a case
                  But I can't get that even tanned look on my face.
                  Ill fitting clothes
                  I blend in the crowd,
                  Fingers so clumsy
                  Voice too loud.

                  But I'm one.


                  I’ve Had Enough

                  You were under the impression
                  That when you were walking forward
                  You'd end up further onward
                  But things ain't quite that simple.

                  You got altered information
                  You were told to not take chances
                  You missed out on new dances
                  Now you're losing all your dimples.

                  My jacket's gonna be cut and slim and checked,
                  Maybe a touch of seersucker, with an open neck.
                  I ride a G.S. scooter with my hair cut neat,
                  Wear my wartime coat in the wind and sleet.

                  Love Reign O'er Me.
                  Love Reign O'er Me.
                  Love.

                  I've had enough of living
                  I've had enough of dying
                  I've had enough of smiling
                  I've had enough of crying
                  I've taken all the high roads
                  I've squandered and I've saved
                  I've had enough of childhood
                  I've had enough of graves...

                  Get a job and fight to keep it,
                  Strike out to reach a mountain.
                  Be so nice on the outside
                  But inside keep ambition

                  Don't cry because you hunt them
                  Hurt them first they'll love you
                  There's a millionaire above you
                  And you're under his suspicion.

                  I've had enough of dancehalls
                  I've had enough of pills
                  I've had enough of streetfights
                  I've seen my share of kills
                  I'm finished with the fashions
                  And acting like I'm tough
                  I'm bored with hate and passion
                  I've had enough of trying to love.


                  At the risk of making Mike cringe again, I'll give Zappa the final word:

                  Flower Punk

                  Hey Punk, where you goin' with that
                  flower in your hand?
                  Hey Punk, where you goin' with that
                  flower in your hand?
                  Well, I'm goin' up to Frisco to join a
                  psychedelic band.
                  Well, I'm goin' up to Frisco to join a
                  psychedelic band.
                  Hey Punk, where you goin' with that
                  button on your shirt?
                  Hey Punk, where you goin' with that
                  button on your shirt?
                  Well, I'm goin' to a love-in to sit & play
                  my bongos in the dirt.
                  Well, I'm goin' to a love-in to sit & play
                  my bongos in the dirt.
                  Hey Punk, where you goin' with that
                  hair on your head?
                  Hey Punk, where you goin' with that
                  hair on your head?
                  I'm goin' to the dance to get some action,
                  then I'm goin' home to bed.
                  I'm goin' to the dance to get some action,
                  then I'm goin' home to bed.
                  Hey Punk, where you goin' with those
                  beads around your neck?
                  Hey Punk, where you goin' with those
                  beads around your neck?
                  I'm goin' to the shrink so he can help me
                  be a nervous wreck...

                  (Just at this moment, the 2700
                  microgram dose of STP ingested by
                  FLOWER PUNK shortly before the
                  song began TAKES EFFECT: before
                  your very ears his head blows up...
                  leaving a bizarre audial residue all over
                  your teen-age record player!)

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    CK: Your reply reminds me of something I wrote a while ago. *runs off to read it again. and maybe post it.* : )

                    Man, no matter how much everyone talks about Jerry, and the times I read (or tried to read) the books, they just slid right off me. Too young, probably. *blush*

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Well, oddly, most of us thought Blow Up was more of an older guy's take on 'our'culture than representative of the culture itself. There were several films like that, few of which captured the moment at least as we saw it. The two Beatles films were closest in spirit, maybe. The Who and a few other mod bands might well have captured the moment best, but as far as the spirit of the times went I think it really was (though we didn't know what to call it) that first rush of post-modernity, where we had become both cynical of earlier certainties and untrusting of our own, much as we wanted to embrace them. We were trying to avoid self-consciousness which was so easy to develop because of the vast amounts of analysis which seemed to be all around us 'explaining' our culture. One of the reason so many of us (especially all those art school rock and roll kids) went for rock and sf (a combination more commonly seen in the UK) was because we were looking for something to make our own. We took what was essentially American popular culture and turned it into a criticism of itself. The tensions and dynamic probably came from the fact that we were testing new waters and hardly knew what we were doing at any given moment, whether on the page (as with Jerry) or in the studio (as with Beatles and Who -- not so much Rolling Stones or the Yardbirds, who represented a rather purer enthusiasm for American blues and in that sense were more like the Dixieland jazz bands which preceded them).

                      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


                      • #12
                        I think my perspective is refracted through the lens of the "second-wave" American suburban flower child movement of the 70s--hence the emphasis on Zep and Zappa. Thus for me Blow Up seems not so much an older guy's perspective. Rather it's the thing itself. The Beatles movies--of course! I always like the "first Beatles" movie best--that is, Lester's Bed Sitting Room. If I am not mistaken, Lester also directed the two Beatles movies. Hat's off to the genius of Spike Milligan--which locates for us some of the origins of 60s British counter-culture back in the WWII misfit soldier crowd? And Spike had a jazz background too, I believe.

                        What did people think of Marshall McLuhan, then and now? And Tom Wolfe's books at that time, especially The Electric Kool-Aid acid Test, and The Pump House Gang. I haven't read the latter, but the former--wow--evidently Woolfe was reading the Beats. As I read Test it struck me that he wrote more like the Beats than the Beats . . . maybe?

                        In connection with this thread, I was thinking last night about the film Message to Love, which documents the “legendary� Isle of Wight festival. The filmmaker kept it under wraps for decades (perhaps to preserve the faux “peace and love� mystique that rose round the event?); releasing it in the 90s. It shows a very raucous crowd insulting the musicians, the musicians insulting the crowd--Ian Anderson is very funny: the crowd is trying to push down the fence, and he scoffs that perhaps they think they'll "win a plastic ball" when they succeed. But then he says he hopes they get it down, intimating that he believes the concert should be free anyhow, and then quips sardonically, "I hope I haven't said anything political." Joni Mitchell starts crying at one point, and members of the Moody Blues are claiming, "We are in it for the music, not the money." Yeah, right. Frauds! The film ends with the debut of ELP--a rather lean and hungry ELP--and I am sure Jerry would have approved of the nihilist aura of Keith Emerson's upside down organ playing--iconoclastic, dude!--as well as Emerson's tight sparkle pants and hat. Corporate rock--in the form of cynical virtuosos--invades the hippie festival, and saves the day!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Michael Moorcock
                          Well, oddly, most of us thought Blow Up was more of an older guy's take on 'our'culture than representative of the culture itself. There were several films like that, few of which captured the moment at least as we saw it. The two Beatles films were closest in spirit, maybe.
                          Just as an aside (as 'twere) but UK viewers with access to digital tv may be interested to know that BBC4 will be screening A Hard Day's Night on Monday 12th December at 10:05pm.
                          At a time when Elvis Presley and Cliff Richard were still making old-style musicals, this forerunner of the modern music video smashed the mould. Charting a day in the life of the Beatles when they come to London for a live TV show, it's a breathtaking musical odyssey that satirises the endless round of banal inquisition, petty regulation and screaming adoration to which the Fab Four were subjected. (5 stars)
                          _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
                          _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
                          _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
                          _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Well, all I know is that I grew up in a world that looked a lot like the animated parts of Yellow Submarine to me, and spent significant sections of my infancy trying to translate Hendrix lyrics, like the horticultural puerile-misinterpretative classic:

                            'All along the Watchtrowel'

                            or, the fridge-related:

                            'There must be some kinda way outta here,
                            Said the junket to the beef'

                            Really. I'd like to say something intelligent about it all, but I was a late developer, I think :(

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Hey P, what's junket?

                              Comment

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