Fiction: “A Dirty Job” by Christopher Moore

Dirty JobI’m not sure why I grabbed this one next – I think it’s because I had just put the sequel to this book on my Christmas list, and it made me remember that it’s been a very long time since I read this. That, or it was near Halloween and this seemed appropriate at the time. I’m not really sure.

Anyway. A Dirty Job takes place in San Francisco, and we meet Charlie Asher on the best and worst day of his life. His wife, Rachel, has just given birth, and in the time it takes Charlie to rush home and grab her favorite Sarah MacLachlan CD and get back to the hospital, she’s sadly passed away. But just before she crashes, there’s a tall black man wearing mint green standing at the end of her bed.

“What are you doing here?”

The man in mint green turned, startled. “You can see me?” He gestured to his chocolate-brown tie, and Charlie was reminded, just for a second, of those thin mints they put on the pillow in nicer hotels.

“Of course I can see you. What are you doing here?”

Charlie moved to Rachel’s bedside, putting himself between the stranger and his family. Baby Sophie seemed fascinated by the tall black man.

“This is not good,” said Mint Green. [p. 8]

Rachel dies shortly thereafter. During the shivah, Charlie goes downstairs from his apartment building into the secondhand store he operates, and notices that a bunch of stuff in his shop are glowing red, as if lit from the inside by a red LED light. He writes it off to exhaustion and grief, but the lights don’t fade with time.

Two weeks later he happens to be near a guy when the guy gets run over by a bus, and the guy’s umbrella starts glowing red at the same time. Freaked, Charlie runs home and doesn’t tell anyone about it. Meanwhile, a book addressed to Charlie at the pawn shop’s address arrives, and his assistant, Lily, who is obsessed with all things goth, opens it and keeps it instead.

And that’s how Charlie doesn’t realize he’s become a Death Merchant until almost too late.

Essentially, he and Minty Fresh – the tall black guy from the hospital – and a few other dealers in secondhand estate items are tasked with finding the souls of the dead and making sure they get passed on to the right people. When Rachel was in the hospital, Minty Fresh got the word that she was dying, and at her death her soul was trapped in the Sarah McLachlan CD. During the time of a soul retrieval, the Death Merchant is practically invisible, allowing them to go into houses and take the glowing items right out from under the family’s noses.

Charlie eventually learns that he is a Death Merchant, and he does very well at managing the balance – after all, he still has his normal thrift store to run, as well as raise a child without a mother. But something has shifted beneath the streets of San Francisco, and the Morrigan – Celtic war goddesses, here used as soldiers of Orcus, the Roman god of the underworld. If the Morrigan get hold of human souls, they become stronger. And they want to become strong enough to turn the above-world into Hell.

Now, this all sounds very, very dark. And you’re probably wondering, “what in the world happened to Christopher Moore, the same guy who made Jesus so funny, to turn so dark?” Look, trust me – the book is funny. Charlie Asher revels in his beta-maledom so much that he practically writes a manifesto.

Plus, existentialist jokes!

“Why isn’t that kid in school?” [Officer] Rivera asked.

“She’s special,” Charlie said. “You know, homeschooled.”

“That what makes her so cheerful?”

“She’s studying the Existentialists this month. Asked for a study day last week to kill an Arab on the beach.” [p. 70]

Maybe it’s only funny to me. But look, you go read The Stranger by Albert Camus in its original French (L’Étranger) and then read that; it becomes way funnier.

There are also two cops, Rivera and Cavuto, who keep stumbling across the Death Merchant shenanigans and the explanations Charlie comes up with are just … so perfect.

Plus, this book contains one of my favorite quotes in the history of everything:

Cavuto threw his arms in the air. “Well, sweet Tidy Bowl Jesus skipping on the blue toilet water, we wouldn’t want it to get fucking weird, would we?” [p. 256]

I’m going to make a sampler out of that; mark my words.

And while a comic romp through the Underworld and Death Merchants is extremely funny in Mr. Moore’s hands, I do want to point out that there are a number of poignant moments in this novel. Charlie is a Death Merchant; therefore, he comes in contact with people dying as part of his now-normal course of action. There is an amazing chapter where he gets to the house of a dying woman earlier than anticipated, and she can actually see him and converse with him. Her family think she’s having a morphine-induced hallucination and let her enjoy it, but Charlie knows she can see him. He stays with her until the very end, and Jesus, I’m tearing up thinking about it now. It’s just so sweet and respectful of what happens to people when a loved one dies, and it’s an important moment to take in the midst of all the fighting for the ruler of the Underworld.

*sniff* ANYWAY. The last thing that happens in this book that I want to discuss is how Mr. Moore expands one of his universes. A book published prior to Lamb and this novel was Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story. That book is the story of Jody, a woman who gets turned into a vampire against her will and her struggle with the change, all the while falling in love with a grocer. The cops Rivera and Cavuto are in that book, as well as the Emperor of San Francisco and his two soldier dogs, Lazarus and Bummer. The cops and the Emperor all feature in A Dirty Job, and Jody makes a cameo in it as well. Bloodsucking Fiends continues with You Suck and Bite Me, which come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve read Bite Me. Oh god, do I even own Bite Me? I’d run and go check, but I’m not currently at my house. Dammit!

Well, what I’m trying to say is that, because of my need for completion and chronological order when given the opportunity for chronological order, I’ll probably read the Bloodsucking Fiends trilogy before picking up the sequel to A Dirty Job, entitled Secondhand Souls.

And since I didn’t get that one for Christmas, that timeline works out very well for me.

Grade for A Dirty Job: 4 stars

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Fiction: “Lamb” by Christopher Moore

lambBefore I get into this, I just want to say: Lamb: the Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal is the 200th book I have reviewed for this site. This is what I’ve been planning on since about oh, this time last year. One night, I got curious as to how many books I’ve read since the inception of That’s What She Read, and spent about an hour counting and going through my records (because yes, I’ve said this before and I’m sure I’ll say it again before the year’s out, I have records), and then figured out how many I had to go until I hit an important-sounding number, and then planned the books I was going to read (allowing for some flexibility) until I hit the big 200, because I wanted that review to be for a very special book.

But before I get into that very special book, let me just say this: when I started this thing about five years ago, I never – never – thought I’d stick with it this long. I get distracted very easily, and the idea of keeping myself to some sort of schedule is kind of panic-inducing (and clearly I’ve done so well with that aspect of it, seeing as how I finished reading this in March), but ANYWAY (drink!) –

I just wanted to say thank you. I don’t know who you are, dear readers – I’m sure I know some of you; I’m sure one of you is probably my mom. But even to those who come to this site by Googling rare search terms like, “bill bryson williamsburg admission“, “russell edgington vs emperor palpatine,” or “picasso enjoying the fine weather in the south of france“, I really appreciate your visits.

(Sidenote: Quite a few of you want to know if Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter was fiction or non-fiction, which worries me, to be honest. But not as much as the large multitude of people who are trying to read Decadent online for free. GUYS. YOU DON’T WANT TO READ DECADENT, I PROMISE YOU THAT. (Unless you’ve been dared by one of your best friends because she thinks it’s funny when you read/watch bad things, which yes, it is, BUT STILL IF YOU HAVEN’T READ DECADENT PLEASE DO NOT START NOW) I guess what I’m saying is, guys: vampires don’t really exist. Even I know that, and I can recite “Bad Blood.”)

So thank you. Thank you for being here since the beginning, or by finding me randomly on the internet.  And if you’ve returned a couple of times, thanks for that too.

One more thing before I get into the book. With the addendum of “Christ’s Childhood Pal,” I would hope one would realize this book is probably going to tell a story about Jesus Christ. One would be right if one assumes that. Now look, I am not religious whatsoever. In fact, all of my biblical knowledge comes from this book, my own personal Rifftrax editions of The Ten Commandments, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. If it’s not in those three movies, chances are I don’t know anything about it. So just my loving this book doesn’t mean I’m going to become all religious all of a sudden. Also, I’m going to refer to Jesus Christ as Biff does in the book – as Joshua.

And now – Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal.

Basically, what Lamb does, is take the missing section of Joshua’s life and gives it substance. The Bible discusses the birth of Christ, and then skips ahead to the teachings of and persecution of Christ. But from birth to thirty is completely glossed over. Stuff had to happen! Even Christ had to go through an awkward teenage-dom; everyone does.

So Christopher Moore gave Joshua a best pal – Levi who is called Biff, which

… comes from our slang word for a smack upside the head, something that my mother said I required at least daily from an early age. [p. 9]

The book is written in a sort of framed way; Raziel, the Stupidest Angel (which I will read eventually), resurrects Biff to get him to write his own gospel.

“A Gospel, after all this time? Who?”

“Levi who is called Biff.”

Raziel dropped his rag and stood. “This has to be a mistake.”

“It comes directly from the Son.”

“There’s a reason Biff isn’t mentioned in the other books, you know? He’s a total –”

“Don’t say it.”

“But he’s such an asshole.” [p. 2]

Biff’s Gospel tells us how the two of them grew up together in Nazareth. Biff and Josh apprenticed together with Biff’s father, and Josh experimented with his powers. Josh grew up knowing he was the Son of God, because his mother Mary would tell him so. Josh’s specialty was bringing lizards back to life after his little brother would squish them. One day, Josh is feeling particularly despondent about not knowing exactly what his purpose in life is, when Raziel the angel visits them – thirteen years too late. Raziel tells Josh to seek out the Three Wise Men, for they will guide him on his journey to enlightenment.

Biff tells Josh he’s going with him, basically because Josh is unable to lie to keep himself safe:

“If a stranger comes up to you on the road to Antioch and asks you how much money you are carrying, what do you tell him?”

“That will depend on how much I am carrying.”

“No it won’t. You haven’t enough for a crust of bread. You are a poor beggar.”

“But that’s not true.”

“Exactly.” [p. 100]

So Josh and Biff go to meet Balthasar, the first wise man. Balthasar teaches Josh tenets of Buddhism and also what happens when you keep a demon tied to your soul in exchange for immortality. After a few years, they then travel to Mongolia and learn about Taoism from Gaspar and a yeti. Finally, they travel to India to learn about the Divine Spark — or, as Biff calls it at one point, “Sparky the Wonder Spirit” — from Melchior, who also teaches them about Hinduism.

Basically, Lamb shows how the religion of Christianity can be traced to have roots in three older Eastern religions while building on some tenets of Judaism. As someone who doesn’t even pretend to be a scholar (No, Indy, I never did in fact go to Sunday School), I appreciated the journey.

But the best part about this book? It’s fucking hilarious.

I mean, there are all the parts where Biff misquotes the Bible:

“Well, it is written, two out of three ain’t bad.”

“Where is that written?”

“Dalmatians 9:7, I think.” [p. 36]

“Yes, Josh, for it is written: ‘Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, but teach a man to be a fish and his friends eat for a week.'”

“That is not written. Where is that written?”

“Amphibians five-seven.”

“There’s no friggin’ Amphibians in the Bible.”

“Plague of frogs. Ha! Gotcha!” [p. 293]

There’s the fact that Biff is my hero in that he invented sarcasm:

“It’s from the Greek, sarkasmos. To bite the lips. It means that you aren’t really saying what you mean, but people will get your point. I invented it, Bartholomew named it.”

“Well, if the village idiot named it, I’m sure it’s a good thing.”

“There you go, you got it.”

“Got what?”

“Sarcasm.”

“No, I meant it.”

“Sure you did.”

“Is that sarcasm?”

“Irony, I think.”

“What’s the difference?”

“I haven’t the slightest idea.”

“So you’re being ironic now, right?”

“No, I really don’t know.”

“Maybe you should ask the idiot.”

“Now you’ve got it.” [p. 50-51]

That leads directly into a scene in Kabul where Josh, Biff, and their concubine friend Joy are searching for a blinded guard:

Once in Kabul, Joy led the search for the blinded guard by asking every blind beggar that we passed in the marketplace. “Have you seen a blind bowman who arrived by camel caravan a little more than a week ago?”

[…] Joshua had wanted to point out the flaw in Joy’s method, while I, on the other hand, wanted to savor her doofuscosity as passive revenge for having been poisoned. […]

“You see,” I explained to Joshua, “what Joy is doing is ironic, yet that’s not her intent. That’s the difference between irony and sarcasm. Irony can be spontaneous, while sarcasm requires volition. You have to create sarcasm.” [p. 163-164]

As adolescents for the majority of the novel, the boys are in turns infatuated and astounded by the fairer sex. As Josh must abstain from knowing a woman’s touch, he lives vicariously through Biff’s … misadventures.

“[Sex isn’t] an abomination if it’s with a woman,” Josh added.

“It’s not?”

“Nope. Sheep, goats, pretty much any animal – it’s an abomination. But with a woman, it’s something totally different.”

“What about a woman and a goat, what’s that?” asked John.

“That’s five shekels in Damascus,” I said. “Six if you want to help.” [p. 91]

Josh’s curiousity is so strong, he … well, forces is entirely too strong a word … not even encourages … basically, he gives Biff permission to have sex with prostitutes before going to see the wise men, just so Josh can observe through a curtain the goings-on to try and understand human nature.

The other harlots let loose with an exaltation of ululation as we led my harlot away. (You know ululation as the sound an ambulance makes. That I get an erection every time one passes the hotel would seem morbid if you didn’t know this story of how Biff Hires a Harlot.) [p. 114]

And when Josh and Biff meet the Yeti:

“It’s a yeti,” said Gaspar from behind me, obviously having been roused from his trance. “An abominable snowman.”

“This is what happens when you fuck a sheep?!” I exclaimed. [p. 242]

While Josh is learning about the Divine Spark in India, Biff takes up with a prostitute and learns about the Kama Sutra. The friends spend their evenings reading from the Bhagavad Gita and Kama Sutra, respectively.

Here’s my favorite passage from the Kama Sutra, as told by Biff:

The Kama Sutra sayeth:

When a man applies wax from the carnuba bean to a woman’s yoni and buffs it with a lint-free cloth or a papyrus towel until a mirror shine is achieved, then it is called “Readying the Mongoose for a Trade-in.” [p. 294]

Josh has his moments as well. Are you having a bad day? Imagine a young Jesus, experiencing his first caffeine high following his first cappuccino, practically slapping the sickness out of poor in Jerusalem:

“Healed that guy. Healed her. Stopped her suffering. Healed him. Comforted him. Ooo, that guy was just stinky. Healed her. Whoops, missed. Healed. Healed. Comforted. Calmed.” [p. 127]

And let’s not forget Josh’s protest of the Hindu caste system:

And a hundred scrawny Untouchables stood there, eyes as big as saucers, just staring at me while Joshua moved among them, healing their wounds, sicknesses, and insanities, without any of them suspecting what was happening. […] He’d also taken to poking one of them in the arm with his finger anytime anyone said the word “Untouchable.” Later he told me that he just hated passing up the opportunity for palpable irony. [p. 271]

And even when Josh returns home to Nazareth, the fun doesn’t stop there. I mean, the fun will stop there, but eventually. He has to find his apostles first. And some of the apostles, boy … they are dumb.

“Master, you’re walking on the water,” said Peter.

“I just ate,” Joshua said. “You can’t go into the water for an hour after you eat. You could get a cramp. What, none of you guys have mothers?” [p. 390]

Josh tells Peter it’s not a miracle, that anyone can do it, and convinces Peter to attempt to walk on water.

“Trust your faith, Peter,” I yelled. “If you doubt you won’t be able to do it.”

Then Peter stepped with both feet onto the surface of the water, and for a split second he stood there. And we were all amazed. “Hey, I’m –” Then he sank like a stone. He came up sputtering. We were all doubled over giggling, and even Joshua had sunk up to his ankles, he was laughing so hard.

“I can’t believe you fell for that,” said Joshua. He ran across the water and helped us pull Peter into the boat. “Peter, you’re as dumb as a box of rocks. But what amazing faith you have. I’m going to build my church on this box of rocks.” [p. 391]

My most favoritest part in this entire book — look, I could quote it for you, but I’d be here all night, and I want you to experience it for yourself. Go find a copy of Lamb, and flip to around page 372 (I’m not sure if the page numbers translate between editions), and you have to read the first draft of the Sermon on the Mount. You have to. It is required reading. Look, you probably have a Books-A-Million or a Barnes and Noble somewhere near you; bring a friend to distract the clerks so they won’t hassle you for reading a book in the bookstore without paying for it first. It will be worth it. If I die, I want two people to act out the Sermon on the Mount speech at my funeral, because I want to go out like the weasels in Who Framed Roger Rabbit – laughing.

In his deepest crises of faith, Joshua turns to his father. And while we never hear the words of God except through Josh’s mouth, I’d like to think that this god also has a sense of humor:

“All men are evil, that’s what I was talking to my father about.”

“What did he say?”

“Fuck ’em.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“At least he answered you.”

“I got the feeling that he thinks it’s my problem now.”

“Makes you wonder why he didn’t burn that on one of the tablets. “HERE, MOSES, HERE’S THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, AND HERE’S AN EXTRA ONE THAT SAYS FUCK ‘EM.”

“He doesn’t sound like that.”

“FOR EMERGENCIES.” [p. 254-255]

Look, you guys, I could read this book aloud to anyone who wanted to listen to me. It is my absolute favoritest book, and in my opinion, you do not have to be religious or anything to enjoy this story. It’s the story of two bros – AND YOU ALL KNOW HOW I FEEL ABOUT BROS – who go on an epic journey, and one turns out to be the Son of God.

Oh, spoiler alert – don’t go into this hoping for a different outcome. Crucifixion and betrayal still happens in the end, and after getting to know the human side of Christ, it makes it all the more heartwrenching. But there is a happy ending (of sorts) for Biff, at least.

OH SHIT I FORGOT TO TALK ABOUT MARY MAGDELENE Oh well.

Read the book if you want to find out, what do I look like, a library?

Grade for Lamb, the Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal: 6 stars

Fiction: “Practical Demonkeeping” by Christopher Moore

Fucking-A, man. As one of my heroes, Frank Vitchard, once said: this is getting ri-goddamn-diculous. I finished this book back in October. October. Like, before Halloween. And I’m just getting to write about it now? The hell, man?

And as if that weren’t bad enough, it has taken me three weeks to read one book. You know how I know it’s been three weeks? Because the book (and the four others I took out from the library) are due this week. I’m not sure which day they were due — all I know is I’m looking at some overdue fees because I’m too lazy to get out my library card and renew them online. And I’m not even sure I can renew them once they’re overdue (although I think I’ve done that in the past).

Let’s put this in perspective. In the time since I’ve finished Practical Demonkeeping and tonight, when I’m writing the review, the following things have happened: 1) LucasFilm was bought out by Disney; 2) Barack Obama was reelected President of the United States; and 3) Hostess went out of business, thereby ruining stonerdom for all time. You all want signs of the apocalypse? There’s three for you right there.

Okay, so, speaking of apocalypses. Apocalypsi? Shit. I suddenly find myself needing to know the plural of apocalypse. And now I’m pissed that I’m quoting Riley Finn, of all people. And now my thumb hurts, for no readily apparent reason. That’s karma for ya.

OKAY, ALAINA. I said, “Speaking of apocalypses,” let’s talk about Practical Demonkeeping. This was Christopher Moore’s first novel, but not the first novel by him that I read. Back in the middle of October — y’know, when I actually read this damn thing — I found myself going through a terrible bout of nostalgia. I had realized that I had six months to remain in my twenties, and there is a long list of Things I Want to Do Before Turning 30. (Which now includes “Travel to Washington, D.C. for a Weekend so I Can Touch the 1964 Aston Martin DB5 That Lives in the International Spy Museum.” Thanks, Skyfall!) So as a way to make myself feel better about not accomplishing anything on that list thus far and, also, as a way of dealing with my return of Saturn, I picked up Practical Demonkeeping because a) I keep meaning to read more of Moore, and why not restart at the beginning, and b) because my landlady’s husband was currently reading H is for Homicide.

Practical Demonkeeping introduces the town of Pine Cove, California, which I imagine to be a tiny town close to Big Sur. I say ‘imagine’ because, if y’all recall, when I was supposed to drive through that area last year, a chunk of the PCH fell into the ocean, causing my detour into Salinas. So I can’t really say that it is Big Sur; I can only guess. I was really looking forward to driving over the Bixby Canyon Bridge while listening to “Bixby Canyon Bridge.”

Wow. Apparently I am still pissed about that. Fucking gravity, man.

Pine Cove is a sleepy little town where not much ever happens. Augustus Brine runs the Bait, Tackle and Wine Shop. Mavis runs the Head of the Slug tavern. Robert and Jenny are going through a divorce, and the entire town knows about it. The same thing happens every day — and because this could be a potential Moore-sian twist, no, it is not Groundhog Day. It’s just that nothing ever happens in Pine Cove.

Until one day, a stranger named Travis arrives in town. He’s quiet, very polite, and a shark at billiards. At the same time, Augustus is visited by a Djinn, who tells him he needs to help fight against a demon.

Turns out, Travis has been traveling for ninety years with the demon Catch, who eats people. Catch is controlled by a spell created by an old Pope (or something), and is only able to remain in Travis’s control by the strength of Travis’s will to control the demon. (Does that make sense? I’ve been trying to write this review for three days, and I’m too … something to go back and rewrite that sentence.) Travis’s will begins to falter when he meets Jenny, which allows Catch to go on an overnight quest amongst the residents of Pine Cove to gather the tools to gain his freedom.

Practical Demonkeeping is a very funny book, but not as funny as Lamb. Sure, there were some laugh-out-loud moments, but I think the reason Lamb is funnier is because the subject matter from which Christopher Moore creates his novel is decidedly not funny. One doesn’t expect humor to come out of the Bible; when it does show up, what was supposedly a tiny little joke becomes exponentially funnier.

Okay. One review down; one more to go, and then I need to fucking finish this other book I’m reading. Three weeks for a 300-page book? Seriously?

Grade for Practical Demonkeeping: 3 stars

Random Post!: I Wants This, Sherlock Holmes, Pirates!, and more

I have finished Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, but some cool stuff has appeared on the internets that match my interests, and I figure hey, if you read this, maybe they’ll be part of your interests, too!

1. I Wants This!: The Griff, a new graphic novel by Christopher Moore

Oh, Christopher Moore. I have read almost all of his books ever (Coyote Blue and The Island of the Sequined Love Nun are the only two to elude me), and when I saw this pop on my GoodReads feed — well, wait; first, when I saw his name pop up on my newsfeed, I jumped up and got all squealy. And then, when I realized it was his first graphic novel? Then I got so squealy, dogs started to bark.

2. I Wants This Too!: Beekeeping for Beginners, a new short story by Laurie R. King


Oh, Laurie R. King! After the Harry Potter series is through (sniff), I think I’m going to reread The Beekeeper’s Apprentice and A Monstrous Regiment of Women again so I can actually continue on into the series. This will present a problem for me — a slight one, only slight — in that I have never yet re-read a book I have already posted about. How is that going to work?

But to get back to the I Wants This: Beekeeping for Beginners is a short story (I’m not sure how short), but from the summary, I’m assuming it’s The Beekeeper’s Apprentice as told from Holmes’s point of view. I — I — I can’t even! I don’t even have a Kindle, but I will totally download the Kindle app thingy for free so I can read this (it’s unavailable in print as of yet), and HOLY CRAP THE THOUGHTS I cannot express them, I am so excited at the prospect of this short story.

3. The Pirates! Band of Misfits
Okay, so this isn’t a book. But! Remember back when I read The Pirates! In An Adventure With Communists!? There’s a movie about them! By Aardman Productions (the same company responsible for Wallace and Gromit)!! And it comes out near my birthday next year! It’s like an early birthday present! And now I can’t stop using exclamation points!

Here’s the link to the trailer (Hugh Grant voices the Pirate Captain, and Martin Freeman and David Tennant are in it too!): link.

4. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Here’s another trailer I can’t wait for OMG. I loved the first movie, I saw it three times in the theater. Because I am crazy, and because British!Robert Downey Jr. is the only thing that trumps Tony Stark!Robert Downey Jr.

Bonus: Moriarty is played by the same guy who plays Lane Pryce on Mad Men.

So, because there’s no way I’m not showing you Robert Downey Jr. in a dress (you’ll see), here’s the link to that trailer: link.

Stay tuned for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: The Review. Coming soon.

Fiction: “Fool” by Christopher Moore

All together now: Aaaaahhhhhhh… That’s better. No moralizing and prim women to be found here. Thank Jeebus.

Fool is the comic retelling of King Lear, from the Fool’s perspective. The Fool’s real name is Pocket, named by the nuns who took him in as an abandoned baby because he could fit in the Mother Superior’s pocket. (I know the term for her was not Mother Superior, but the book is in the other room and I don’t want to get up right now.)

As I’ve said before, I’ve read a good many of Christopher Moore’s novels. I’m down to two: The Island of the Sequined Love Nun (most likely no relation to the aforementioned Mother Superior) and Coyote Blue. In terms of humor, Fool falls somewhere between Lamb and probably Bloodsucking Fiends. I never fell out of my chair as I did during the Sermon on the Mount, but it was much funnier than Fluke was.

Pocket tells the story with a bawdy tone: wenches and laundresses have “gadonkability,” there is much “bonking,” and his epithet of choice is “Fuckstockings.” Yes, I will totally start saying “fuckstockings” in my daily life. Go ahead: try it. Say it out loud. Try not to giggle afterwards.

Christopher Moore does take some liberties with the plot. Somehow, Macbeth‘s Three Witches from Birnham Wood appear (I’m not entirely sure the Witches themselves were of the Birnham Wood in the original play [Macbeth, not Lear, duh], but Birnham Wood was supposed to march upon Elsinore … no, wait, that’s wrong … y’know? Don’t correct me. That’ll be a goal of 2010: Read all of Shakespeare’s plays) (longest. digression. ever.), and there’s always a bloody ghost.

I think Moore does an admirable job attempting to bring some humor into one of the darkest tragedies Shakespeare’s written. He at least gives it a somewhat happy ending. But there are still double-crosses, Edmund’s still a bastard (literally and descriptively), and at the end of it, he’s able to wrap some odd loose ends up in a little pretty bow with bells on it.

If you liked Lamb and have a passing affection for Shakespeare, read this book.

Grade for Fool: 4 stars

Fiction: “Fluke” by Christopher Moore

flukeI don’t think it’s a secret; I heart Christopher Moore. When his new book title and cover is released to the Internets, my eyes light up with the same intensity as when I discovered that some ice cream company in Britain made Daniel-Craig-pops (okay, not the same intensity, obviously. One is a very tasty treat that I would enjoy devouring, and the other is a book. There’s another joke in there, somewhere; something about devouring Daniel Craig’s Popsicle. But I’m going to walk away from that type of wit tonight and simply say that Daniel Craig can be my Good Humour Man any day).

Anyhoodle; I love Christopher Moore. My favorite book of all time is Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. I re-read it every other year or so (which reminds me; it’s been about eighteen months since the last read), and I’ve read almost every other book he’s written and loved them all (the titles I haven’t gotten to yet: The Island of the Sequined Love Nun and Coyote Blue; Fool was just released this year, and is in my To Read Pile).

Fluke was on my list, and I picked it up about four months ago in my fit of Reading ADHD. Sometime in the middle of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES, I picked Fluke up again, from the beginning, and was determined to complete it.

I did, just before midnight on the 31st of May. But I didn’t love it as much as Christopher’s other stuff.

The story is interesting enough, on the outside: Whale biologist Nate Quinn and his research assistant Amy are researching the humpback song. One day, while cataloging data from a humpback singer they were following, Nate sees the words “BITE ME” on the whale’s fluke. What follows is a series of mishaps and coincidences, which all lead to the underwater city of Gooville and the secret of the humpback song.

Christopher Moore’s stories always have a dash of the supernatural intertwined with normal people in extraordinary situations (see Bloodsucking Fiends, where poor Tommy falls in love with a girl vampire, or The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, in which a seaside town is plagued by a sea monster). I think what threw me off with Fluke was the large amount of science (which one should know when talking about whale researchers; I know I can’t just make that stuff up). Also, the plot took a very long time to get going, and the ratio of questions to answers was exponentially high for a good amount of the novel. And I realize that we don’t want to answer a question as soon as we ask it; that way lies madness and a poorly written narrative. But we want to answer a couple of questions so we the reader don’t get lost or confused. It was starting to feel like the third season of Lost in this book for a while, with the more questions asked than answered.

The high point (heh) was the stoner kid, Kona, who talked in some pidgin Jamaican/Hawaiian stoner patois. The character had such a lust for life and huge enjoyment of the whales – it countered the research mode the other characters were always in.

I’d recommend this novel for a true Christopher Moore fanatic – it’s part of his ouvre, and should be enjoyed. For a casual reader of Christopher Moore? Skip it; move on to Fool. That’s my plan, anyway.

Grade for Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings: 2 stars