Thursday, July 5, 2012

He realized, with no little sense of irony, that until he became Death, he'd never felt so alive

Boyfriend was going on a last minute work trip and was looking for something to read so I started pulling books off the shelf. I suggested A Dirty Job to him but he decided to go with Domestic Violets. However, since A Dirty Job was already off the shelf I decided I may as well read this. Besides it's one of the top Moore books I recommend so I may as well re-read it and make sure it's as good as I remember.

Guess what, it is! I wasn't really too worried about not liking it because Moore tends to stand up when I re-read him. But still, one can never be sure that first impression will hold up under multiple readings.

A Dirty Job is about Charlie Asher, who has just lost his wife while at the same time gaining a daughter. And it seems a new-life calling in addition to his career as proprietor of Asher's Secondhand. He's a death merchant (think like Santa's Little Helpers, but for Death, capital D) Certain items in his show start glowing red, although only he can see. Then a copy of The Great Big Book of Death shows up. And forces of darkness seem to be mocking Charlie from the sewers. And things just continue to get weirder and weirder. I would like to point out here that when I saw Moore talk he said he wanted to combine horror and whimsy, because he was told those two things could never mix. I wouldn't consider this a scary book, but a combination of horror and whimsy sounds just about right.

I haven't come across a Moore book that I dislike, but this is definitely one of the best ones. It takes place in his favorite city, San Francisco and features a couple characters from his vampire series*. And even with all the forces of evil and death merchants, it features Moore's signature humor. Especially about Beta Males (as opposed to Alpha Males). For example
While Alpha Males are often gifted with superior physical attributes--size, strength, speed, good looks--selected by evolution over the eons by the strongest surviving and, essentially, getting all the girls, the Beta Male gene has survived not by meeting and overcoming adversity, but by anticipating and avoiding it. That is, when the Alpha Males were out charging after mastadons, the Beta Males could imagine in advance that attacking what was essentially an angry, woolly bulldozer with a pointy stick might be  losing proposition, so they hung back at camp to console the grieving widows. (31)
It's not just a hilarious book, but a touching one. The main character is Death so naturally he often sees people during their last moments. But please don't think of Charlie as Death (or at least a death merchant) anything like Death being the narrator of The Book Thief. Charlie is first and foremost a worried father, fretting over his daughter losing her mother and then having to deal with a father who has an...odd job.

Writing about books I love always seems harder than books I hate or I liked but don't get gushy about. Hence the big quote up there because how better to convince you that this writing is awesome than by just showing you Moore? So yeah, read Moore. This one is excellent AND stands up to re-reads.

*Bloodsucking Fiends, You Suck, and Bite Me

Title quote from page 103

Moore, Christopher. A Dirty Job. Harper, 2006.