13. Fool – Christopher Moore – 337 pages (4 stars)
Fool is one of Christopher Moore’s most recent satirical retelling, although Bite Me is scheduled for release very soon. The only other book of his I’ve read is Lamb, which I heartily enjoyed, and I plan to get around to his other books whenever I need a light-hearted break from the real world.
Fool is a re-telling of Shakespeare’s King Lear, which I must admit is not my favourite of Shakespeare’s tragedies. Moore’s author note is hilarious, opening with: “I know what you’re thinking: ‘Why, are you, an American comic novelist, thrashing around in the deep end of genius with the greatest artist of the English language who ever lived? What did you think you might possibly achieve besides peeing in the pool and drowning in your own shallow aspirations [ . . . ] Shakespeare writes a perfectly elegant tragedy that functions perfectly well and you can’t leave it in peace. You have to put your greasy hands all over it, befoul it with badger shagging and monkey spunk. I suppose we just can’t have nice things’” (359).
Moore responds with “[…] you’re right, I’ve made a dog’s breakfast of English history, geography, King Lear, and the English language in general. But in my defense—well—I don’t have really have a defense” (359-360). Gotta love a guy who isn’t afraid to take the piss out of himself and others.
I enjoyed this complete bastardization of King Lear, which probably makes me a terrible English major. Pocket, the fool and protagonist, is lovable and witty and the perfect vehicle in which to watch the tragedy turned tragicomedy unfold. He does take a lot of liberty with the language, timeline, slang, and contemporary in-jokes (Example: The three Macbeth witches make an appearance and are named Parsley, Sage, and Rosemary. Pocket responds with “No Thyme?”).
But, somehow, it works. The plot never drags and you are going to laugh or at least smile every few pages, which is what Moore is supposed to do. Granted, the humour is very American and thus there are a lot of mentions of bungholes, bonking, and wanking. But underneath that, it is a good story that reflects a lot of the themes of Lear—families lie, royalty like to betray each other, and there’s always a bloody ghost, isn’t there?
(as always, this is my book review journal/blog of being an ex-pat American in Scotland and I enjoy making new friends)