Tuesday, December 16, 2008

FOOL, a Bawdy Tale indeed!

I was thrilled to be chosen to receive an Advance Reader's Edition of Fool by Christopher Moore, the guy who wrote one of my all-time, top-of-the-list, desert-island favorite novels, Lamb, and I was excitedly looking forward to reading his latest comic offering. When it finally arrived, I tore open the envelope to find the book wrapped in a warning label that stated, in really large text: "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 nontraditional grammar, split infinitives, and the odd wank [whatever that is]. 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."

I shrugged off the warning about it being bawdy but found myself feeling a bit anxious that the nontraditional grammar and split infinitives might put me off the story, but then I reminded myself that one thing that Chris Moore can do well is write, so I shrugged that off too.

I peeled off the wrap-around label and checked out the back of the book. There was that warning label again. Also a Cast of Characters, which included King Lear, Cordelia, and all the rest of the characters from the Bard's play, as well as a couple of fools (Pocket and his apprentice Drool) and a Ghost ("there's always a bloody ghost"). Aha! I exclaimed. It's a retelling of Shakespeare's tragedy. Brilliant.

I began reading immediately, but after I was half through the second chapter (they are not long chapters), I put the book down on the bedside table, somewhat in shock, and turned out the light. Apparently, I am not so inured to ~ what did the warning label call it? vulgarity and profanity ~ as I thought, and I wasn't sure I wanted to continue reading it.

A couple of days passed, and I thought of the book a few times a day, and glanced at it when I got into bed, but I picked up something else to read both nights. But something about the story and the characters and, let's face it, the utterly outrageous naughtiness of it, called to me, so on the third night I picked it up again and read a little more. And it wasn't quite so crude, or maybe I just got used to the language and the images conveyed. So I read a few more chapters before it again got to be too much, though there were a few giggles this time amongst the wide-eyed gasps. And I began to appreciate the dialogue a lot more (that's another thing I've always felt that Chris does really well, is dialogue). Like this bit:

"...The castle's awash in intrigue, subterfuge, and villainy - they'll be
wanting comic relief between the flattery and murders."

"Intrigue and villainy?" Drool displayed a gape-toothed grin.

Imagine soldiers dumping hogsheads of spittle through the crenellations atop the
castle wall - thus is Drool's grin, as earnest in expression as it is damp in
execution - a slurry of good cheer. He loves intrigue and villainy, as
they play to his most special ability.

"Will there be hiding?"

"There will most certainly be hiding," said I, as I shouldered an escaped
testicle into his cod. [Note: you have to read it. I am not going to

"And listening?"

"Listening of cavernous proportions - we shall hang on every word as God on
Pope's prayers."

"And fuckery? Will there be fuckery, Pocket?"

"Heinous fuckery most foul, lad. Heinous fuckery most foul."

"Aye, that's the dog's bollocks, then!" said Drool, slapping his
thigh. "Did you hear, Mary? Heinous fuckery afoot. Ain't that
the dog's bollocks?"

Obviously, of course, I broke through previously well-hidden vestiges of prudery ~ a leftover of my Catholic-school upbringing, no doubt ~ and dove into the clever hilarity and surreal wickedness with relish. And glad I am that I didn't let prudishness stop me from reading Fool, which turned out to be much more than crude vernacular & slapstick. Oh, it was certainly vernacular enough, and I did enjoy a few good out-loud laughs and a lot of chuckles, but, like Lamb, it was much more than that. It might have started out almost too crazily, with too much crudity, too many odd characters and improbable scenes, but it soon settled into a rhythm, and the insanity abated into just zaniness, the crudity into merely colorful language, and the characters became familiar ~ weird but familiar ~ and then new characters, some of them from other of Shakespeare's plays, joined the party, and the fool began to change and grow and started to really matter to me. And the ending was ~ well, I really liked the ending.

So, I'm planning to read the whole novel again, because I think I may have missed some really good bits in the first few chapters while I was being prudish. And also just because I want to enjoy it all over again.


bookoholic said...

I definitely want to read that now - I'm a huge Shakespeare fan and don't mind the "odd wank" at all. :) Thanks for the review!

Rose City Reader said...

This sounds like hilarious fun. I just finished The Lambs of London that was also all about Shakespeare, so maybe I will stick with a theme.

Wrighty - said...

I hope I get this book too! Moore is such riot. Thanks for leaving a good review.

Florinda said...

I am officially envious that you've read this already :-). Christopher Moore is one of the very few authors I'll break my "don't buy hardcovers" rule for - but my husband will probably read this first anyway :-). Thanks for the review!