Wednesday, May 23, 2012

This Week's Book: Fool

I'm a bit late in posting this entry, I know. I've needed a bit of rest over the past couple days so I'm around to it now. The next one should come soon enough. For those unfamiliar with the phrase "non-RYM", refer to the link I posted in my first Book a Week post here. These are copypasted from my account on that exquisite site.

May 13-19: Fool by Christopher Moore

Comedy (2009 - 311 pp.) 

Fool tells the story of King Lear, from the fool's perspective, with patchwork references to other Shakespeare plays and with some very creative artistic license. There is also a nice big helping of, as Christopher Moore's fool (Pocket) describes it, "bonking." The book is a fun, quick read, with enough wit to be at least a little intellectual but far more buffoonery. The ratio works well. 

There is enough quasi-mashed-together-medieval to make things work, much in the same way fiction has been done in the past. Think of something like The Sword in the Stone, which shamelessly blends circa 1500 French imagery with a character like Merlin. Moore does this sort of thing but in such a self-aware way it is impossible not to laugh along with him. Then there are the more observational jokes, like Pocket's bells making him particularly ill-suited to stealth. Identification with the characters happens more in the way of constantly enjoying being let in on Pocket's outlandish jokes than through anything particularly emotionally moving, but I would not have wanted to cry for anyone anyway. 

Much as with Lamb*, which I read last summer and also recommend, Fool has the kind of humour that can really appeal to the religious. Seeing people with Three Stooges-level intellects attempt to practise any kind of faith turns into a frenzy of poorly hidden sins and doctrinal flip-flopping (see page 16 for a great paragraph on this in the middle of the page). The mechanics of the royal court are easily spoofed - Regan asking for an execution in return for her non-existent virginity being taken is a good example - with Lear coming off as less of a tragic figure and more of a nincompoop. Amazingly, not all of the characters in this book qualify for that distinction. I'll leave which ones do not as a surprise. 

As an interesting aside, from my March 16 entry on John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces: "I learned a couple words from this book, specifically 'coxcomb' and 'eruct'. Not sure what I'll do with them, but I always like a little extra vocabulary in the quiver." The word "coxcomb" appears more times in Fool than in any other piece of writing I have ever read, and I knew exactly what it meant every time. That, plus the word "quiver" in the preceding passage, really makes me think there is some clairvoyance going on. Or a complete coincidence, you be the judge. 

Thanks to a non-RYM friend for the recommendation, and for recommending Lamb last summer. Thanks to the same friend for lending me Fool

*Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff is a fictional account of Jesus Christ's life as according to his best friend who did not appear in the Bible. It is exactly as funny as it sounds, which means extremely. 

Ease of Reading: 9 
Educational Content: 2

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