Review: The Filth

The FilthThe Filth by Grant Morrison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think the best word to describe this novel is ‘funhouse’. I chose that word with some care, because I think it captures both the strength of the novel and its weakness. Basically, we have a collection of ideas, each fascinating in itself, thrown together with little apparent attention to conventional narrative or plot. So, in the course of the book a number of strands run relatively parallel to one another, with little or no contact, but even within each strand there are shards or fragments, as if the strand were a collection of icebergs moving freely, so sometimes the touch briefly, but there is no obvious way in which they fit together.

So, this could be infuriating if what you are looking forward to is a simple narrative where good guys kick butt, or even a less simple narrative where everything is horribly complicated but at least you understand how all the parts fit together to produce a greater whole. But then again, what ideas they are. Gilbert and George images brought to life; a man whose official spokesperson is a woman who has been subjected to surgery so invasive that she is now simply a highly concupiscent automaton; extremely ambitious nanobots; mind-reading toupees; the ‘paperverse’ of superhero comics, whence characters can emerge into our world; chemically induced alter-egos leading to weird existential debates about which is the real personality; and so on.

So okay, loads of brilliant ideas. What about the novel as a whole? Well, this is my theory, and Grant Morrison may disagree, but here goes. In my opinion what we have here is almost the raw material for making a graphic novel. That is to say, we have a number of only very loosely connected fragments, and it is up to us to make a narrative of them that works for us, but may, of course, not work for anyone else. Trying not to sound pretentious, this is very similar to the idea Woolf used in Jacob’s Room, where she presents fragments from the life of the eponymous protagonist, and it is up to us to assemble them into a life. So the real story of The Filth lies in the intertextual gaps that you, the reader fill from within your own mind, inspired by what Grant Morrison has old you.

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3 responses to “Review: The Filth

  1. Pingback: Being fair to Grant Morrison | Julian's Books

  2. Pingback: Grant Morrison’s ‘The Filth’ | Julian's Books

  3. Pingback: Grant Morrison's The Filth

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