Have you ever turned up at a party and found everyone already there to be rightly sozzled, possibly so bombed out of their brains you begin the experience with the sinking feeling you will never catch up? I mean, have you considered what might be the right combination of...er, pharmaceuticals to catch up, or at the very least set you on the same page? Well that is a little how I felt reading this first, for me, Jerry Cornelius story, The Final Programme. To join his company on the printed page, as opposed to being in the company of the extraordinary English actor John Finch, who played him in the movie version of this novel. That film was first gifted to me by Irish artiste Mark Mc Keown, way back in the day on a battered well loved NTSC video. I found it challenging and exciting, seeing it through the prism of a Doctor Who fan, discovering Jon Pertwees interpretation had a funkier but just as eloquently dressed younger brother. Yet while, over some time, and some dodgy regenerations of my own, I became very fond of that film I never got around to checking out the source material.
I should not have hesitated as it has turned out to be smashing. Some of the very best books I have read over the last couple of years were penned by Michael Moorcock and that was without giving any thought to when they were written and if the particular books were part of some broader worlds are he was bringing into being. He has created such vivid mindscapes he makes me think of a being who shapes the world he lives in rather than being shaped by it. If a meme is construed as a restrictive unit of information , by virtue of its size, how are we to properly appreciate an info burst fired from the back brain, to the mid brain, to the fore brain into what passes for our version of reality. Perhaps paraphrasing the demented brother of Jerry, Frank Cornelius, is not the way to illuminate the notion of partying through the catastrophe that is modernity. We are all dancing and singing on the side of Vesuvius, while the ground trembles beneath our feet. And at times, in the wreckage of the year just passes, who could fault anyone for feeling we deserve no less than petrification. Frozen in ashy embarrassment as we are caught indulging our grossest appetites while the world trembles. How prescient Michael Moorcock was, is and remain for all the ages.
Consider this zinger from about the eighty page mark,Jerry sighed and thought that the true aristocracy who would rule the seventies were out in force. The queen's and the lesbians and the bisexuality, already half aware of their great destiny which would be realised when the central ambivalence of sea would be totally recognised and the terms male and female would become all but meaningless. It might all have taken longer than Jerry Cornelius, Michael Moorcock, may have speculated but as a thought exercise, Oh My Giddy Aunt, I fairly blushed, vicar.
It is all done in the best possible taste too. Or rather, in the absence of poor taste. Which is to say the speculative pondering of Michael Moorcock through the lives of his creations are not hamstrung by any fear of sounding or feeling dated, like William Shakespeare he is a writer for the ages. Unlike William Shakespeare he is also quite sexy. The actual world is still playing catch up. If we truly exist during a series of unfolding yoga, what use is an awareness of times passage to us. We are a blue skinned Doctor Manaton Krishna adept staring at a wrist watch with no hands on it. Its the reality that exists off the page, the one we think we are experiencing that takes second place to the exploits of Jerry Cornelius. He makes me feel like an Edwardian stumbling across a cylinder radio which has tumbled through a timeslip. Given time I might be able to retroengineer its workings, determine what it is for, but I would in all likelihood poop myself with existential fear if the Beatles track Tomorrow Never Knows exploded from its speakers, riding a sitar lock all the way to Hades.
Jerry Cornelius is a very likeable bastard from a long line of beyond Claudian excesses. His father is a genius creator of a charming house of death. His brother a pharmaceutical Gandalf The Very Grey and his sister Catherine is the great love of his life ( Yes, in that way.) Not since Robert Graves I, Claudia's has literature given birth to such a sibling virago. And just wait till you meet Ms Brunner. She and Jerry bring out the worst in each other. Ms Brunner has a way of getting inside you or rather she has a way of getting you inside her. Mad, bad and very dangerous to know, its their world and both will kill without compunction.
Actually, its their multiverse, we just happen to spend time and space in it.