FOOL by Christopher Moore

By: N8 · February 18, 2009

Dearest readers and adoring fans,

In the wake of Valentine’s Weekend — much of which I spent playing WoW during the “Love Is In the Air” world event, passing around enough virtual cards to NPCs to actually get the Bag of Candies to drop the three times I needed so that I might pull all the different cyber-candies out, thus earning myself the Title “Noblesavage the Love Fool,” an achievement about which I am foolishly proud — I wanted take note of a new release in the fantasy fiction realm that touches on love, fools, and fools in love.

A favorite author of mine, Christopher Moore should have been commended to you a thousand times over before now, but his new book FOOL provides a timely springboard.  One of few authors whose whole collection I have attempted to devour with some success, Moore’s sharp wit and easy grafting of the made-up onto the well-known made him my favorite since I first stumbled onto You Suck: A Love Story.

If you’ve seen my posts praising Terry Pratchett (generally and Hogfather, particularly), what distinguishes Moore in my head is a tendency toward somewhat sharper edges and a touch less of a gooey center.  Unlike Pratchett, Moore tends to set his novels in roughly contemporary society — notably the northern California town of Pine Grove or in modern day San Francisco, where Moore himself lives — where the surreal, unreal, or supernatural is brought right to the modern reader’s doorstep rather than the real being blown up and projected onto a fantastical canvas like Pratchett’s Discworld.  Both write about fantasy and the supernatural, but whereas Pratchett has created another world to parot our own, Moore has grafted the fantastic over the top of our own, bringing the surreal and supernatural to a Starbucks near you.

In many ways, though, FOOL is a significant departure for Moore, as he attempts to reimagine Shakespeare’s King Lear as a story told by the licensed Fool of the court, an orphaned boy he names Pocket.  You may have noticed that there’s a growing (or maybe plateauing) popularity in the retelling of a popular tale from the perspective of a minor character: WICKED met with much commercial success, much of which seemed to me to stem out of the “cleverness” of the idea of majorizing a minor character rather than the quality of the story itself.  Personally, I prefer it when some more meat is heaped on the minor characters, such as in Stoppard’s “Rosencranz and Guildenstern Are Dead.”

For the most part, Moore’s FOOL falls into the camp of making effective use of the familiar tale to advance the invented one he tells.  You need both to make this kind of project work, and Moore accomplishes that without question.  For him, though, it’s a departure because the tone of the familiar Lear story infuses a great deal more cruelty than Moore might himself invent, and at times the reader is given the impression that the lightness one so enjoys in Moore’s other work has trouble staying afloat amidst the unavoidable eye-gouging, poisoning, and slaughter of the source material.  Still, Moore delivers on his promise to provide “heinous fuckery most foul” and infuses the whole with the keen social commentary and jest that I have come to expect from his other work, as well as a bit more lewdness that I applaud and relish.   Although FOOL weaves between comedy and tragedy and ultimately throws up its hands, satisfied to be alternately hilarious and horrible, bawdy and bloody, it’s an enjoyable and well-crafted, if a tad darker than anticipated.

Yours in the season of Love,

N8

Leave a Reply