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Foolby Christopher Moore
"As the king of dramatists, Shakespeare has long invited every form of pastiche, parody and general lese-majeste. But to turn the darkly depressing King Lear into a comedy requires more than ordinary chutzpah. Yet who better to give it a try than Christopher Moore, author of the famously outrageous and funny Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal? As Moore's prefatorial 'Warning' to Fool explicitly states, the result is 'a bawdy tale.'" Michael Dirda, The Washington Post Book World (read the entire Washington Post Book World review)
Synopses & Reviews
"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....If that's the sort of thing you think you might enjoy, then you have happened upon the perfect story!"
Verily speaks Christopher Moore, much beloved scrivener and peerless literary jester, who hath writteneth much that is of grand wit and belly-busting mirth, including such laurelled bestsellers of the Times of Olde Newe Yorke as Lamb, A Dirty Job, and You Suck (no offense). Now he takes on no less than the legendary Bard himself (with the utmost humility and respect) in a twisted and insanely funny tale of a moronic monarch and his deceitful daughters — a rousing story of plots, subplots, counterplots, betrayals, war, revenge, bared bosoms, unbridled lust...and a ghost (there's always a bloody ghost), as seen through the eyes of a man wearing a codpiece and bells on his head.
A man of infinite jest, Pocket has been Lear's cherished fool for years, from the time the king's grown daughters — selfish, scheming Goneril, sadistic (but erotic-fantasy-grade-hot) Regan, and sweet, loyal Cordelia — were mere girls. So naturally Pocket is at his brainless, elderly liege's side when Lear — at the insidious urging of Edmund, the bastard (in every way imaginable) son of the Earl of Gloucester — demands that his kids swear their undying love and devotion before a collection of assembled guests. Of course Goneril and Regan are only too happy to brownnose Dad. But Cordelia believes that her father's request is kind of...well...stupid, and her blunt honesty ends up costing her her rightful share of the kingdom and earns her a banishment to boot.
Well, now the bangers and mash have really hit the fan. The whole damn country's about to go to hell in a handbasket because of a stubborn old fart's wounded pride. And the only person who can possibly make things right...is Pocket, a small and slight clown with a biting sense of humor. He's already managed to sidestep catastrophe (and the vengeful blades of many an offended nobleman) on numerous occasions, using his razor-sharp mind, rapier wit...and the equally well-honed daggers he keeps conveniently hidden behind his back. Now he's going to have to do some very fancy maneuvering — cast some spells, incite a few assassinations, start a war or two (the usual stuff) — to get Cordelia back into Daddy Lear's good graces, to derail the fiendish power plays of Cordelia's twisted sisters, to rescue his gigantic, gigantically dim, and always randy friend and apprentice fool, Drool, from repeated beatings...and to shag every lusciously shaggable wench who's amenable to shagging along the way.
Pocket may be a fool...but he's definitely not an idiot.
"Here's the Cliff Notes you wished you'd had for King Lear — the mad royal, his devious daughters, rhyming ghosts and a castle full of hot intrigue — in a cheeky and ribald romp that both channels and chides the Bard and 'all Fate's bastards.' It's 1288, and the king's fool, Pocket, and his dimwit apprentice, Drool, set out to clean up the mess Lear has made of his kingdom, his family and his fortune — only to discover the truth about their own heritage. There's more murder, mayhem, mistaken identities and scene changes than you can remember, but bestselling Moore (You Suck) turns things on their head with an edgy 21st-century perspective that makes the story line as sharp, surly and slick as a game of Grand Theft Auto. Moore confesses he borrows from at least a dozen of the Bard's plays for this buffet of tragedy, comedy and medieval porn action. It's a manic, masterly mix — winning, wild and something today's groundlings will applaud." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
In "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead," Tom Stoppard had the clever idea of retelling "Hamlet" from the point of view of two of its minor characters. Even before that, James Thurber addressed the problem of "The Macbeth Murder Mystery," treating Shakespeare's Scottish tragedy as if it were an Agatha Christie whodunit. It turns out that Macbeth and his good lady were falsely blamed for the death... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) of King Duncan, the real murderer being absolutely the least likely character. Similarly, the 1950s film "Forbidden Planet" gave a science-fiction twist to "The Tempest," even as the musical "West Side Story" copied and updated the plot of "Romeo and Juliet." As the king of dramatists, Shakespeare has long invited every form of pastiche, parody and general lese-majeste. But to turn the darkly depressing "King Lear" into a comedy requires more than ordinary chutzpah. Yet who better to give it a try than Christopher Moore, author of the famously outrageous and funny "Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal"? As Moore's prefatorial "Warning" to "Fool" explicitly states, the result is "a bawdy tale." Very bawdy. We're talking country matters here, the beast with two backs, coxcombs and poxes, scullions and cullions, all the most intimate body fluids and exudations. In truth, "Fool" is exuberantly, tirelessly, brazenly profane, vulgar, crude, sexist, blasphemous and obscene. Compared to Moore's novel, even Mel Brooks' hilariously tasteless film "Blazing Saddles" appears a model of stately 18th-century decorousness. To quote carelessly from "Fool" would strain the forbearance of this family newspaper. Suffice it to say that variants of the f-word and its English cousins — the marginally more acceptable, because less familiar "shag" and "bonk" — appear on every page, not only as intensifiers and expletives but also as apt descriptions for what is happening right before our eyes on the tapestried divan with Princess Goneril or behind the arras with her sister Regan. Virtually every woman in this novel — from the cook and the laundress to a holy anchoress and three witches — demonstrates what Moore calls, in one of his rare euphemisms, "a generous spirit in the dark." Our narrator and hero is Pocket, King Lear's jester or fool. Originally a foundling reared by nuns and once a traveling mummer (actor/acrobat/clown), he is a young man of multiple talents: Pocket can forge letters, throw knives with deadly accuracy, caper with equal ease among the high and the low and, most of important all, make the melancholy Cordelia laugh. He even boasts an apprentice named Drool, a man-mountain of limited intelligence but spaniel-like loyalty and a not-too-distant cousin of Mongo from "Blazing Saddles." As the novel opens, old Lear has been persuaded to divvy up his kingdom among his three daughters and in return expects arias of impassioned devotion and gratitude, which the hypocritical (but very sexy) Goneril and Regan enthusiastically deliver. Cordelia refuses to exaggerate her affection for her father and is duly sent packing, married off without a dowry to the king of France. Ye Olde Britain is then divided between the two lying-through-their-teeth sisters, the medieval equivalents of Vampirella and Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS. Before long, Lear's darling daughters are cuckolding their ducal husbands while conspiring against each other and with the sleekly wicked Edmund, the bastard son of the Duke of Gloucester. Once fully heart-broken and divested of his retainers, the now howling-mad Lear is driven from his castle into the raging storm, with only Pocket left to set matters right. Can he do it? So many things are rotten in the state of Britain, and a fair number of them involve cold-blooded murder, madness, sexual frenzy and rape and, of course, torture (up to and including the plucking out of eyes), not that one should discount the occasional ghostly visitation, a bit of sorcery and witchcraft, and all-out war. Needless to say, Pocket turns out to be much more than just your ordinary fool in motley. All comedies approach the tragic, avoiding it at the last minute through some fateful revelation or convenient deus ex machina. In "Fool" Moore takes a tragedy — after all, "Lear" ends with almost everybody dead — and plays it for laughs, largely through the exuberance of the novel's shaggy, slangy diction. Pocket spiels like a music-hall comedian, with a relentless spate of winking and blatant sexual banter and a constant patter of quips, japes and backtalk. Take this confrontation with the satinly evil Edmund: "I said, 'Thou scaly scalawag of a corpse-gorged carrion worm, cease your feast on the bodies of your betters and receive the Black Fool before vengeful spirits come to wrench the twisted soul from your body and drag it into the darkest depths of hell for your treachery.' "'Oh, well spoken, fool,' said Edmund. "'You think so?' "'Oh yes, I'm cut to the quick. I may never recover.' "'Completely impromptu,' said I. 'With time and polish — well, I could go out and return with a keener edge on it.' "'Perish the thought,' said the bastard." I suspect that such deadly politeness owes more than a little to the similarly elegant sarcasm found in films like "The Princess Bride" and comparable fractured fairytales. While much of the humor of "Fool" is Rabelaisian and full of priapic gusto, Moore will stoop to any form of joking. Virtually every geographical location is a bad pun of the groan-inducing variety, my favorite being the city of Lint-upon-Tweed. The three witches are named Parsley, Sage and Rosemary, and when the old knight Kent naturally asks, "What, no Thyme?" witch Rosemary answers with a badabing: "Oh, we've the time if you've the inclination, handsome." An ambitious troupe of traveling mummers hopes to stage the classic but ever-fresh "Green Eggs and Hamlet." The king of France is named Jeff. There are, naturally, more than a few pokes at modern-day politics and religion. On the very first page we are told that a thousand years ago "George II, idiot king of Merica, destroyed the world." We also learn that "after the Thirteenth Holy Crusade," it was decided that to avoid future strife "the birthplace of Jesus would be moved to a different city every four years." Less welcome, indeed an artistic misjudgment, is the steady dog-trot of word-notes and definitions at the bottom of the page. These interrupt the narrative flow for no discernibly good reason. They're not funny, so they can't be sending up the kind of annotation found in scholarly editions of Shakespeare, but neither are they particularly useful. Does it really matter to tell the reader, without even a glint of humor, that a chamberlain is "usually a servant in charge of running a castle or household" and that an iamb is "a metrical foot consisting of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable"? While usually a merry prankster, at times Pocket grows as melancholy as Jaques in "As You Like It" and then speaks with a somber, if slightly tongue-in-cheek, Shakespearean majesty: "Oh, we are but soft and squishy bags of mortality rolling in a bin of sharp circumstance, leaking life until we collapse, flaccid, into our own despair." Sometimes our hero even grows sentimental: "Ah, Goneril, Goneril, Goneril — like a distant love chant is her name. Not that it doesn't summon memories of burning urination and putrid discharge, but what romance worth the memory is devoid of the bittersweet?" But before long, Pocket shucks off such unprofessional wistfulness and is back to his usual self, as in this typical riposte: "'Shall I disrobe for my punishment?' I offered. 'Flagellation? Fellation? Whatever. I am your willing penitent, lady.'" While "Fool" is certainly amusing — especially when read while snowbound in Ohio during late January — its blithe crudity can grow a little tiresome at times, no matter how much one generally admires Moore's copious and almost Bard-like razzmatazz. I also wondered if anybody, except Drool, could fail to guess the identities of the various mysterious or ghostly personages, let alone have any trouble in foreseeing Pocket's eventual destiny. No matter. If you like Benny Hill's leering music-hall routines or Terry Pratchett's satirical Discworld novels, or George MacDonald Fraser's rumbustious Flashman adventures, not to overlook the less well known comic fiction of, say, Tom Holt and Tom Sharpe, you're almost certain to enjoy Christopher Moore's latest romp. Besides, its hero prances around with bells on. No fooling. Michael Dirda can be reached at mdirda(at symbol)gmail.com. Reviewed by Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
(hide most of this review)
"Less may be more, but it isn't Moore. Wretched excess doth have power to charm, and there are great reeking oodles of it strewn throughout these irreverent pages." Kirkus Reviews
"Fans of Moore's warped sense of humor will not be disappointed by his latest....[A] laugh-out-loud book, enjoyable by both those familiar with the Shakespeare tragedy and those new to the story..." Library Journal
"King Lear is one tough play to parody, at least at this length, and the book feels like something Moore had to get out of his system. [Moore's] legion of fans will forgivingly enjoy it..." Booklist
The wildly inventive, New York Times-bestselling author of You Suck! is back, in this modern take on King Lear. It's 1288, and the king's fool, Pocket, and his dimwit apprentice, Drool, set out to clean up the mess Lear has made of his kingdom, his family, and his fortune.
“Hilarious, always inventive, this is a book for all, especially uptight English teachers, bardolaters, and ministerial students.”
—Dallas Morning News
Fool—the bawdy and outrageous New York Times bestseller from the unstoppable Christopher Moore—is a hilarious new take on William Shakespeares King Lear…as seen through the eyes of the foolish lieges clownish jester, Pocket. A rousing tale of “gratuitous shagging, murder, spanking, maiming, treason, and heretofore unexplored heights of vulgarity and profanity,” Fool joins Moores own Lamb, Fluke, The Stupidest Angel, and You Suck! as modern masterworks of satiric wit and sublimely twisted genius, prompting Carl Hiassen to declare Christopher Moore “a very sick man, in the very best sense of the word.”
About the Author
Christopher Moore divides his time between San Francisco and Hawaii. He invites readers to e-mail him at BSFiends@aol.com.
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