I’ve noticed that all I want to read these days is satirical, ridiculous fiction. It’s probably a by-product of my imminent graduation from library school; thinking about serious things would most likely damage my fragile psyche.
But sometimes an author comes along who can combine the farcical with the deadly serious so well, you don’t even realize it. And that’s Christopher Moore. His style, in my opinion, is akin to Tom Robbins’ (the author of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Still Life with Woodpecker, and Villa Incognito). Moore is philosophical, smart, and a little off-kilter. Moore acknowledges on his website that he has been influenced by Robbins, Kurt Vonnegut, and Douglas Adams (who wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). His father was a highway patrol cop who often pulled dead and dying people from car wrecks, and Moore says that his father’s sense of humor was tinged with darkness.
My favorite of Moore’s books is probably his most famous and controversial. It’s titled Lamb: the Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. And yes, it’s about Jesus, although in Moore’s novel, Jesus is really named Joshua, from the Hebrew name Yeshua. Josh and Biff, whose real name is Levi, are best friends growing up, and Biff is at Josh’s side for all of the recognizable Biblical adventures they have: flipping the moneychangers’ tables, raising Lazarus, consorting with lepers and harlots, etc. If you know your Bible stories, you will know pretty much everything that happens in this book before you start. Spoiler: it ends the same way you think it will. There’s no deus ex machina here.
Lamb isn’t just about Joshua’s life right before the crucifixion, however. Moore’s goal was to show people what could have happened to Jesus between his childhood and the age of 33, none of which is in the Bible. Where did he go? Who did he meet? How did he feel about being the Messiah? Moore’s postulation of what Jesus did during those years will raise some eyebrows, so just to clarify: this is not a book for kids or for young teenagers. There are bad words. There is sexual activity. And you might think it’s blasphemous. I think it’s a great book that perfectly touches on what Jesus’ message was: be a good person and good stuff will happen to you.
A Dirty Job is less religious, but just as morbid, and maybe more fun. It’s about Charlie Asher, a man who thinks of himself as a Beta Male: he’s getting through life by not being noticed. However, when his wife gives birth to their daughter, Sophie, something changes drastically. People start dropping like flies around him, and he wakes up every morning to see names written on his nightstand notepad. What happened when Sophie was born, and how can Charlie change it? This is an inventive, hilarious, and weird look at the Grim Reaper. Moore’s dark sense of humor really shines in this novel. As always, his supporting cast of characters is integrally important to the plot; they aren’t just there as window dressing. Pay attention to the little details in a Moore novel if you want to get the full experience.
Practical Demonkeeping was Moore’s first novel, and I think it holds up really well. It’s about Travis and Catch, an ex-priest and a lizard demon, respectively. They are a mismatched pair of traveling companions who happen upon a small California town. Catch wants to eat everyone in sight and Travis just wants to get rid of his scaly hitchhiker. But the people in the town have their own ideas of what’s going to happen. Moore asks the reader in his author’s note: “Can you actually combine whimsy and horror and make an effective story?” Well, can you? I think it’s possible.
Other Christopher Moore books include:
What smart, ridiculous, poignant books do you like? Let us know!