Friday, March 27, 2009

"Fool" by Christopher Moore

I love Christopher Moore. Love, love, love his works. The only one that I hadn't truly laughed out loud while reading was "Fluke" - until now. Yes, there are funny parts of this book. Yes, there is some really good writing in this book. But I must say that I didn't enjoy this book nearly as much as I had anticipated; I expected better from Moore. (Not to mention that my hubby read it first and just laughed himself silly the whole time. Not sure what that says about him...)

"Fool" is Moore's take on King Lear. Yes, that King Lear, the one written by none other than the Bard himself. One of Shakespeare's finest tragedies. As he did in "Lamb", a normally more minor character takes center stage and tells the tale. In this case, that would be Lear's fool, Pocket. Pocket knows all, sees all, and in this case, instigates all. Pocket himself has a sidekick, the fool-in-training Drool, a "natural" (one made not quite right by Nature, but usually just perfectly for a fool's job). All the usual suspects are here - Lear, his daughters Goneril, Regan and Cordelia, the Gloucester gang (the father and his sons, Edgar and Edmund). Also present are characters from other works of Shakespeare's, most notably the witches from "Macbeth". Moore probably lifts lines and/or scenes from a dozen or so of the Bard's works, so you know this is going to be anything but a faithful reworking.

The story is also still a tragedy, beginning with Lear being manipulated by the bastard son Edmund into having his daughters declare how much they love him, with the original results: Goneril and Regan lie through their teeth to get what they want and Cordelia tells the truth, resulting in her banishment. Lear divides his kingdom between the other two snakes, then can't believe how they treat him when he goes to visit. There's treachery around every turn, and of course, an eventual war. Lives are lost and Lear realizes what a fool he has been.

Pocket, being the narrator of this tale, is privy to it all. And maybe that's the problem here - Pocket has an incredibly foul mouth on him. Granted, Moore himself includes a "warning" page in which he tells the reader that "This is a bawdy tale. Herein you will find gratuitous shagging, murder, spanking, maiming, treason, and heretofore unexplored heights of vulgarity and profanity, as well as non-traditional grammar, split infinitives, and the odd wank." I read that warning, so yeah, I should have known what was coming. But... it was a LOT of vulgarity, so much so that I think it distracted from the story. It felt like Moore was relying on the crassness to bring about laughter, and in my case, he failed miserably. I'm used to Moore's sense of humor, and yes, he can and does range into the toilet-humor every now and then, as well as sexual comedy. But "Fool" was just over the top with it. If he had toned that down somewhat, I think I would have enjoyed the book more, perhaps even laughed a bit more. As it was, I found myself thinking that Pocket was the sort of fellow that I'd want to yell at for his lewdness. It made it difficult to sympathize with him, and since he is the narrator, that's not a good thing. Now, please understand that I am in no way a prude. F-bombs don't bother me a bit, talking about sex doesn't phase me, and bloody scenes are not a problem. But this? It's almost like reading a bad actor over-emoting for a scene. That's the best description I can come up with.

I'm hoping that Moore returns to finer form with his next book. Or maybe I'll just do myself a favor and reread "Lamb", undoubtedly one of his best. Yeah, that might wash the stink of "Fool" out of my brain.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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