The Cornelius Chronicles, Vol. III

What happened to volume II?

It wasn’t in the stores I looked in, and I didn’t care enough to order it.

So, the Michael Moorcock series continues with this one.

Raw Feed (1999): The Cornelius Chronicles, Vol. III, Michael Moorcock, 1987.Cornelius Chronicles III

The Adventures of Una Persson and Catherine Cornelius in the Twentieth Century — Published just before the conclusion to Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius books, this narrative is more comprehensible than at least the last three (or, perhaps, I’m used to this series’ idiosyncrasies) books there. We even learn a little bit about the process of going from timestream to timestream and hear about the problems of amnesia (alluded to in the Jerry Cornelius ‘ books but not very clearly) suffered by Jerry and Catherine Cornelius and Una Persson and Major Nye. Like the Jerry Cornelius books, I didn’t mind reading this, especially since it featured Persson, one of my favorite Moorcock characters. It also featured lots of sex scenes (much more explicit than any of the Jerry Cornelius books) with Catherine Cornelius. The book starts out with the lovers Persson and Catherine deciding to take a break from each other and go their separate ways in the timestreams. Burdened by their amnesia, functionally explaining why the short chapters have little obvious plot continuity, they careen about the first 80 or so years of the 20th Century. Persson hops from revolutionary cause to revolutionary cause eventually tiring of the various roles she can assume and going back to the music hall. Catherine careens from lover to lover (of both sexes), getting more into masochism as time goes by. Eventually they reunite and are happier. I’m not sure what the point of all this was other than providing some sex scenes – but writing pornography was never a Moorcock trait even before he championed Andrea Dworkin. If he was trying to make some statement about women struggling for meaningful roles in the modern world, he failed.

The Alchemist’s Question — In some ways, this is the most comprehensible of the Cornelius books. Clearly it’s a satirical work, its targets being Margaret Thatcher and her Britain, pornography, and, surprisingly, Cornelius himself. (Shortly before I read this novel, I came across an interview by Moorcock, from the late 1980s, in which he said he stopped giving people permission to write Jerry Cornelius [several authors did including Norman Spinrad] stories since the character had become a bit on an “egg”, meaning, I suppose, Moorcock grew to dislike him and the values he symbolized.) Una Persson criticizes Cornelius for only valuing his own appetites, says it’s time for him to grow up since he’s past 40 (actually Miss Brunner says this), that he’s only a faux revolutionary and never considers morality. In short, Jerry now seems to be the bad, self-indulgent, spirit of the sixties. Una Persson and Catherine Cornelius are the real heroes here, and there’s a strong feminist streak with talk of women being better fit to rule (that’s real women and not “false” women like Thatcher and her followers – the typical inconsistent, ideological stand of gender feminism), talk of the Goddess, and what seems to be the start of Moorcock’s attack on pornography (he’s a fan of rabid feminist and anti-porn Andrea Dworkin) in the character of Alvarez whose moral decay into a saboteur of the Time Centre and follower of Miss Brunner is mirrored and/or caused by his fondness for bondage magazines. Many of the opening epigrams for the chapters (they seem to be genuine) reference, unflatteringly, the Thatcher administration or develop the theme of 20th century genocide (and, to a lesser extent, colonialism) starting with the Turks killing Armenians. The Thatcher administration is labeled (and is the main target here) as being the worst of both worlds: capitalism and authoritarianism.  The book fails as satire or propaganda since Moorcock simply, most of the time, labels his targets pejoratively without giving enough details to convince us of his point of view; he asserts; he does not convince. We get no specific details why Thatcherism is bad, how pornography corrupts, or why “real” women are so well suited for ruling. As for Jerry, his shortcomings have long been obvious as a hero. Though Frank Cornelius and the vulgar Mrs. Cornelius are dead, the plot is similar to The Final Programme. Miss Brunner and Bishop Beesly are concocting a scheme to start a nuclear war where the unrighteous will be frozen, the virtuous thawed out. The Final Programme‘s first episode in Lapland and its end are alluded to. Here, again, Brunner and Bishop Beesly conspire to bring about an authoritarian regime. Jerry and Catherine are fused into a egg that seems to represent (though it’s unhatched) the cosmic balance central to Moorcock’s stories of the Eternal Champion.


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