FIRING THE CATHEDRAL
by Michael Moorcock
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
In the post-September 11th world, Michael Moorcock has resurrected his Christ-figure Jerry Cornelius, for another lampooning of the world in Firing the Cathedral. Firing in a seemingly scattershot manner, Moorcock attacks everything from religion to colonialism, the current American administration to Britain. It is a sign of Moorcock's ability in making his observations that you cheer him and his characters when the attack in against an entity the reader holds in low respect and consider his attacks asinine when Moorcock attacks that which the reader holds dear. The novella works, however, in that no reader will be able to make it through the convoluted text without feeling both support for and opposition to, the expressed sentiments.
There is little of a linear story in Firing the Cathedral, as happens frequently when Moorcock turns his attention to Jerry Cornelius and his band of reprobates. The novella is comprised of twenty-two short chapters, each of which is headed by multiple quotes from sources ranging throughout history and geography. Moorcock's selection of epigraphs is as important to the work as what he has written in the adventures of Jerry, Bishop Beesley, Una Persson, and others.
Although the scattershot approach in both Moorcock's social commentary and in his depiction of the action of his characters takes getting used to, it does eventually come together to form, if not an entirely coherent picture, at least a cohesive work. Getting to that end, however, does require a certain amount of jumping around and taking on faith that Moorcock knows the direction in which he intends the work to go and how it will all come together.
Readers who have enjoyed the earlier adventures of the Cornelius clan will, no doubt, also enjoy Firing the Cathedral, although for readers more familiar with Moorcock's fantasy writings, whether the Elric novels of the 1960s or the more recent forays of the albino, Firing the Cathedral will come as something of a shock for its lack of straightforward narrative couching the philosophical and satirical elements found in so much of Moorcock's work.
Firing the Cathedral appears to be written in a manner which is not only guaranteed to make the readers think about the various comments Moorcock writes which the reader can take umbrage with, but also to consider their own reactions to those comments. Having adopted the United States as his home country, Moorcock seems to be raising a warning flag against the unquestioning jingoism which has been afflicted portions of his adopted homeland since the terrorist attacks of 2001.
(Cities, including A Year in the Linear City, The Tain, Firing the Cathedral, and V.A.O.)