Wednesday, February 26, 2014

That there's a besmirchin'

As I may have mentioned once or twice (or a million) times before, I like Christopher Moore. A lot. So when Emily sent me an emailing saying she'd procured me a copy of Christopher Moore's latest book The Serpent of Venice AND got it signed for me, I may have done a stupid dance.  She's pretty awesome, if you hadn't already guessed.

I have been super excited for this book ever since Moore mentioned it while promoting his (at the time) latest book Sacre Bleu. Enough so when it was my turn to get my book signed and talk to him I mumbled some version of "yeah yeah, this current book I'm holding in my hand sounds good and all, but please tell me more about this Serpent of Venice you have in the works." And once I spoke up enough for him to hear, he was very nice and talked about how he had planned to write a bunch of it in iambic pentameter but do you know how hard that shit is? Very, is the answer.

Serpent is the sequel to Fool which is one of my most favorite Moore books*. Fool is, essentially, King Lear but told from the Fool's point of view, with a little Macbeth thrown in. Serpent takes Pocket (aka the Fool) and sends him to Venice in a story that is basically a mash-up of The Merchant of Venice and Othello: The Moore of Venice, with a dash of Poe's "The Count of Amontillado". Now King Lear is not my favorite Shakespeare play, despite the number of times I've been forced to read it,** but you know what I do love? Fool. And while Merchant is also not a favorite of mine, Othello is, so the fact that Serpent is both is just peachy.

Antonio, Brabantio, and Iago decide they need to get rid of the fool Pocket who seems to know too much and of course is just kind of annoying. Of course Pocket hasn't made it so long without a few attempts on his life, so he's pretty good at getting out of tight spots. Not to give too much away, but Pocket ends up on the doorstep of Shylock and his daughter Jessica, ready to begin his plan for revenge.

Of course we have all of the elements of Merchant: the loan, the pound of flesh, Jessica running off with Shylock's jewels and turquoise ring to be with Antonio's buddy Lorenzo, Portia and her 3 caskets, "the quality of mercy" speech and the courtroom. And then there are the elements of Othello: Desdemona marrying Othello, Iago's manipulation, the Egyptian handkerchief, Cassio the light-weight. But if you haven't guessed, since we have lots of plays smooshed together, that things don't go quite as Shakespeare wrote. It all works out beautifully. And hilariously. The scenes between Iago and the Chorus are some of the best. And an explanation for why Iago always seems to be talking to himself.

I always find writing about books I loved to be so much harder than books I hated. Or even just sorta "meh"-ed. And I loved this one. I had to force myself to read my Bleak House chapters/homework because I knew this was waiting for me. I tried to spread out the reading a little bit over the weekend, knowing I had a couple long train rides. And I failed because I NEEDED TO KEEP READING. And in terms of "escape books" (as in "books that let me forget I'm on a crowded subway") this one is way up there. I would look up and suddenly realize I was almost at my stop.

Now I really want to re(re)read Fool. And then probably re-read this one.

*Other favorite Moore books, because this post doesn't have enough links yet, Lamb (my most favoritest of my favorite books) and A Dirty Job.
**And which I can't help but think every time "Dammit, Cordelia. You can't just placate your dad for 2 minutes and exaggerate your love for him the tiniest bit? No? Fine, when everyone dies, it's kind of on your head."

Title quote from page 10

Moore, Christopher. The Serpent of Venice. William Morrow/Harper Collins, 2014.