Fool by Christopher Moore
Posted Winter 2019
Over a decade ago, I ran into my first Christopher Moore book. It was Coyote Blue, the story of a salesman who meets Coyote, a trickster spirit, and thus his destiny. It also featured a memorable character named Minty Fresh, someone who showed up in a later novel. After I burned through that book, I picked up several more of his books (The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, Bloodsucking Fiends, You Suck). I read and laughed and read and laughed. I then took a hiatus from reading his work - I cannot explain it, since I loved the books so much. For whatever reason, these past fifteen or so years, I never touched any more of his books. Except for a brief interlude with A Dirty Job at some point (this is where Minty came back - love that guy).
I loved all of these books. They hold a special place in my heart, one reserved for writers who write comedy fiction and do it well. I encountered Douglas Adams much earlier in my life, and I would say that he primed me for Moore's work.
One day, a few years ago, I was at my friend's house. He had a copy of Fool on his shelf. He has a wicked sense of humour and he told me it was a hilarious take on Shakespeare. Intrigued, I borrowed it. And then it sat on my shelf for two years or so, untouched. I could blame it on a TBR pile the length of my arm, but really, it just wasn't my time to read it. Until five days or so ago.
Review - 5/5
5/5 was easy - I never laughed so hard at a work of fiction on written page. Ever. I think that it is one of the hardest mediums to express a joke that makes someone laugh out loud. As a fellow author, I am quite in awe of Christopher Moore.
This book is introduced as a bawdy tale, and that is as accurate a description as you are going to find. It tells the story of Pocket the Fool, jester to King Lear. The opening finds him making offensive jokes and pissing off the entirety of the nobility, with the usual exception of King Lear. IT kind of follows the plot of King Lear, but goes all over the place with anachronisms and pop culture references (Moore actually deals with this in a section at the back of the book). The story itself is actually very gripping and you feel for Pocket, in spite of all the murder and treasonous courtly plotting. And the jokes...
Holy shit, was this book funny. Lewd jokes, frequently involving things like buggery and a 'touched' man (by God - AKA mentally handicapped - AKA the Natural - AKA 'a git' - this book is not PC) named Drool's comically enormous dong, come fast and furious. Between the references to 'great gouts of git seed' and Pocket banging a holy anchoress through an arrow slit in a cathedral wall, I could not believe half of what I was reading (in a good way). The wordplay is extremely witty and precise. I actually laughed out loud at several points while reading, slightly annoying my wife who was sitting next to me on the plane. The best parts I'll not reproduce here, except for one:
"You put your dick in my lunch? The fool put his dick in my lunch?"
Like I said, there is a plot to all of it, and it is actually quite human. King Lear is a bit of a sad sack misanthrope in the original play, and this gets amped up in Fool. The fool himself has an enigmatic past that gets unraveled the further we get along in the story, and it is quite touching. Which surprised me somewhat, given the tone generally. But, again, if I have not gushed over Christopher Moore's writing enough, I will do it again here: he is so good made me feel things beyond the strain on my bladder and sides as I laughed uproariously to descriptions of how messed up the antagonist princesses were after being subjected to Drool's dong.
Of course, this is a fantasy forum, so rest assured that there are witches with magic spells, torn straight out of MacBeth. There were a number of references to other Shakespeare stories, but the beating heart of the book was King Lear. I was one of the weirdos who actually enjoyed reading the Bard back in high school, and King Lear was definitely one of my favourites, so an English nerd-related tumescence could certainly be felt a-strainin' the old slacks as I devoured it over the course of a few hours (hey, it fits with the subject matter of the book).
Excellent writing, filthy humour, a gripping plot - what more could you ask for? Pocket might suggest that only a tosser would answer a rhetorical question like that, and I would have to agree.