Saturday, July 21, 2012

Shirley, you jest?

Title: Fool
Author: Christopher Moore
Bookmark: some scrap of paper I found in the book

While stranded recently in Ohio, I started poking around the nearest bookshelf until I found something that suited my mood.  Christopher Moore is good for that.  He's an excellent storyteller, but in my few encounters of his work, the biggest reason to read Moore is a raucous sense of humor.  This one also had a warning from the author advising of the various sex acts, murders, subterfuges, and colorful language that filled the following pages, but I'm the sort of person who cheers when a warning of the graphic nature of the program shows up on TV.

Fool claims to be a retelling of King Lear from the court jester's point of view.  Since my only knowledge of King Lear comes from Fool, I have no reason not to believe that (even Moore advises in an afterword that although some people may want to re-read Lear after reading to Fool to look for similarities, "that way madness lies").  I didn't read it because of its purported Shakespearean pedigree; I read it because it looked funny, and I happily discovered I was right.

Pocket spends most of the book setting two of Lear's daughters (and their husbands) against one another and their father in a good, old-fashioned English civil war to punish the old man for mistreating the youngest daughter, exiled to marry the king of France (throughout the book, both the country and the language are continually referred to with an adjective that looks like "firetrucking," but with five fewer letters).  You love hating the villains, and Pocket, despite being a thoroughly roguish rascal, is a great protagonist.  In true Shakespearean fashion, I sometimes had to re-read a few of his insults and ponder them a few moments before I really understood, but once I got them, I liked them even more.

Pocket is assisted by Drool, his enormous, dim-witted assistant fool with a remarkable talent for mimicking voices and an eidetic memory for conversations, and the exiled Earl of Kent, who remains doggedly faithful to the mad king who ordered him out of the country upon penalty of death.  Slightly less helpful, but indispensable, are the three witches who provide Pocket with some magical assistance for a price to be named later, and the ghost ("there's always a bloody ghost") who insists upon speaking in riddling rhymes, rather than giving Pocket the straightforward advice he'd far prefer.

It's funny, very entertaining, and most importantly, it's exactly what I needed at the time.

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posted by reyn at 2:00 PM


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