Tuesday, August 17, 2010

We're all Fate's bastards

 I know my last few posts have been about Shakespeare* but the next couple are going to be about him as well.  Sorry!  Slog through a few more (or just ignore me for the next couple posts) and I'll be onto a new topic in no time.  Promises. I'm also skipping a fellow bloggers post this week because I recently listed out a bunch of my favorite blogs in my last post.  If you're at a loss for other blogs to check out and want, nay need, my wisdom check out that list.

For now I'm re-reading Fool by Christopher Moore.  It's a retelling of King Lear from the Fool's point of view, with some changes here and there to Shakespeare's play.  I'm not sure if it makes any difference if you're familiar or not with Lear before reading this.  I think the story is well told and funny enough that you don't even need to know there is a different version of King Lear but seeing how I already know the story of Lear I can't really say for sure.  That was a rambling way to say I've read Lear before and cannot time travel to see if Fool makes any sense without knowing it.  So there you go.

Moore's writing is satirical, humorous and absurd, which is exactly how I like my books.  If you're not yet familiar with his humor, here's the warning he put in the beginning of the book:
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.  If that sort of thing bothers you, then gentle reader pass by, for we endeavor only to entertain, not to offend.  That said, if that's the sort of thing you think you might enjoy, then you have happened upon the perfect story!
For me, Moore has absolutely provided me a perfect story.  Or at least a very entertaining one.   The story doesn't just strictly follow the King Lear plot but also includes back stories for the fool, Pocket, as well as the pasts of Lear, Cordelia, Goneril and Regan. Pocket has a greater influence over the events of the story than the original play suggests, though it's pulled off in such a way you could see the truth-speaking fool actually having a hand in the action.

As is typical of Moore's characters, Pocket is a generally good guy but he certainly engages in some morally questionable plots, usually to suit his own ends or the ends of those he cares about.  He's not all good, which would make him boring and he's not all bad, which would make him unsympathetic.  The gray area is a more interesting mire to wade through.  Just as in the play, Pocket's wit allows him to say and do things that are unsavory when coming from others.  Humor softens the blow.  I've yet to find a Moore book that completely lacks wit, but it works especially well here, where quick wit is a central part to the fool's character.

Fool is one of my favorite Moore books, just barely behind Lamb.  I'm sure the fact that it's Shakespeare based plays a good part in making this one of my favorites but the story itself is so well-told and so funny that even if this had been just a generic court jester it still would have been good.  By the way, the book was originally going to just be  about a generic court jester, but his editor told him he should do Lear.  I love that this book includes a little explanation from Moore about his intentions.  And if you want to see an excellent post about author's intentions check out the post about just that over a Dead White Guys.  I can't say I think that author's intention is the be-all-end-all to a book and coming up with your own interpretation separate from the author's is pointless and a waste of time, Jane Doe makes a very convincing argument.  I can't think of a good way to counter it, so I'll just agree with The Reading Ape's comment.

I'm still debating if I'll have a second post about this book, so there may be one more Shakespeare entry you'll have to read (assuming you'll read the next one if you've made it this far).  I'm about 1/2 way done with the book as is, but because I have read it before I'm confident in the above review.  Don't worry, it won't be a second review of the book or anything entirely redundant, though I'm sure I'll make mention of the humor again.  If I find an aspect that particularly catches my eye, you'll see another entry.  If not, I'll be off on some other topic.

Title quote page 29

*Other Shakespeare posts:
I think you showed a lot of heart!  A lot of courage!  A lot of  -- as Shakespeare would say -- 'chutzpah'  - The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (abridged)
The law of transitives and...Othello?
"[Maybe] I'll find the meaning of life in a sonnet" - My Name is Will

Moore, Christopher.  Fool.  Harper, New York.  2009


  1. I'm totally going to be adding this to my reading list. Thanks for the great review.

    All the best,

  2. Geophrie - Thanks for stopping by! I hope you enjoy :)

  3. Red, you're making me expand my TBR list again...I don't think I can resist this one after that great review.

  4. I echo the great review sentiments:)
    I have tried Christopher Moore once before,
    The Stupidest Angel, and didn't make it all the way thru...this sounds like I should give him another try...

  5. Bev - you won't be disappointed with this one! At least, I hope not. Do be careful reading it in public though. I get some strange looks when I laugh out loud.

    BookGirl - I haven't read the Stupidest Angel yet, though I'd like to since Raziel is a main character in my favorite Moore book Lamb. You should also check out A Dirty Job by Moore. That one seems to be a bigger hit among some of the people I know


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