In the wild, wacky, and wonderful world of Christopher Moore’s works, absurdity usually reigns and the humor comes fast and furious. Trust me. I know. I’ve read them all — most of them more than once. I’m a Moore fan, and his vampires, whale folk, fruit bats, island people, and the residents of Pine Cove are all characters I’m way familiar with.
His latest novel, “Sacre Bleu,” is something different. I mean it as a huge compliment when I say that this newest release almost feels like a more mature read than all Moore’s other works. It’s still amusing, of course, but as a Moore fan I have to say it stands apart from the other twelve books. It’s more detailed, deeply well-researched, and just immensely creative. In essence, Moore took a bunch of paintings and created a book around them — not the easiest feat.
“Sacre Bleu” opens with the death of Vincent Van Gogh – a death that practically screams ‘foul play.’ (Really, if you shot yourself on purpose, would you walk a mile to get help?) Set among a Paris where the Impressionist painters are on the rise, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and a baker turned painter named Lucien Lessard find themselves on a hunt for a mysterious (and likely magical) man called only The Colorman after Van Gogh’s death. Historically, the “sacre bleu” was a super rare and hyper expensive shade of blue paint that would last forever, as it was made from gemstones. Seurat, Cezanne, Monet, and Manet also show up for the hijink-laden quest, but it’s Lucien and Henri’s show. The younger and somewhat innocent Lucien and the world-weary Henri make a nice duo as they wind up criss-crossing the city seeking any number of artists, galleries, and models.
I don’t want to spoil anything, really I don’t, so I’ll stop here.
Except to say that I was happily reminded of the “Doctor Who” episode where Van Gogh is featured.
Yeah, things get other-worldly. It’s great. That’s all I’m saying.
Read it. Well done, Mr. Moore. Now I’m sad I have to wait another long time for the next book.
P.S. — The first edition of “Sacre Bleu” is gorgeous, with all the text in a shade of blue and color reproductions of all the mentioned paintings laid into the pages. Also, the book doesn’t have a dust jacket, opting instead for a library-ish binding, which makes me incredibly happy. (I haaaate dust jackets.) From what I hear, future printings will be black and white, so if you want a positively lovely addition to your collection, get your hands on one stat.
I adore Christopher Moore.
In fact, I’d go as far as to call him my favorite living author.
My first discovery of his works was purely by accident — In a train station, in need of something to get me through a 3 hour Amtrak ride, my eyes fell upon the cover to “A Dirty Job,” which I bought, and reader/author love was born.
SO! Mr. Moore has a new book out – “Sacre Bleu” – and Chicago wasn’t originally a part of his tour itinerary. This made me sad. Then, my husband and I discovered that he had a Milwaukee stop on my birthday, and a mini road trip in the name of book-nerd-iness was born.
Off we headed to the land of beer and cheese.
Boswell Book Company, the Milwaukee store that hosted the event, is wonderful. Staffed by book nerds, the shelves are packed with all kinds of great reads. The children’s section is adorable, there’s a bunch of travel books, and hey — it’s connected to a Starbucks. Basically, they had me at hello.
Milwaukee folk love Christopher Moore, apparently. The event was full, and the crowd was fun and receptive. The Author Guy himself was a blast to listen to — silly, political, and smart. He even came out about fifteen minutes before the event and wandered through the assembled crowd, seeing how far everyone had come from. (The winners got audiobooks — I think of “Lamb.”)
Here’s what I learned:
Among his favorite characters, Rivera (the put-upon cop) ranks pretty high.
Harvard Divinity is teaching “Lamb,” which gets way less angry letters from religious people than you’d expect.
What’s he working on now? Another book involving Pocket from “Fool,” only this time put into the combined context of “Othello” and “The Merchant of Venice.” (He’d also like to do a sequel to “A Dirty Job,” which might include the return of one of his most beloved characters, Abby Normal – the inspiration for whom came from goth kids Moore saw on the bus, and their subsequent Myspace blogs.)
Mostly, he was there to talk about his newest (#3 New York Times bestselling) book, “Sacre Bleu,” which takes the reader back in time to the events surrounding Van Gogh’s death and the Impressionist artists of the world surrounding him. It’s a novel about the color blue, and I’m currently about 40% of the way through reading it, so I can say it’s quite good — if a slight departure from the silly absurdity of some of Moore’s other works. It’s a little bit more mature of a book, which I absolutely mean as a compliment.
Post-event, we all queued up to get our books signed. The staff at Boswell handled this really well, assigning everyone to a group and calling up groups so everyone didn’t have to wait in line the whole time. We went through the line, and (being those people with the baby) I’m pretty sure our 6 month old amused everyone around us the whole time.
Mr. Moore graciously signed several of my books – including the copy of “A Dirty Job” that started my whole fandom in the first place. In the limited time we spoke with him, he was affable and charming.
I really enjoyed my experience with Boswell Book Company and the signing. Wisconsin Booknerds, you should really stop by. Everything was lovely and well-coordinated and you can tell it’s a store staffed by folks who just love books. To show my support, I took the opportunity to pick up two books I’ve been meaning to acquire copies of — Daphne Du Maurier’s “Rebecca” and Karen Russell’s “Swamplandia!”
Good times, good times!
If you ask me who my favorite authors are, I may respond with “one of these things is not like the others.” I would say Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, and Christopher Moore.
(FYI – My beloved Stephen King ranks a little lower. Largely ’cause his inability to end a book makes me mental. He spends 800 pages weaving an amazing story and then blows it all in the last couple chapters. Sorry. That was venting.)
Of my favorite authors, only one is still actually alive and currently writing – The amazingly absurd Mr. Moore. He has a new book coming out in April, “Sacre Bleu,” and tour dates have been announced. Sadly, there’s no Chicago on the list. Yet. I’m optimistic. (Also, he’ll be in Milwaukee on my birthday…and that’s not far away.. hmmmm…)
4/3/2012 San Francisco
7:00 PM Books Inc @Opera Plaza
601 Van Ness Ave
San Francisco, CA 94102
7:00 PM Powell´s Books @ Bagdad Theater
3702 SE Hawthorne Blvd
Portland, OR 97214
4/5/2012 Lake Forest Park
7:00 PM Third Place Books
17171 Bothell Way NE
Lake Forest Park, WA 98155
7:00 PM University Book Store
4326 University Way NE
Seattle, WA 98105
7:30 PM Tattered Cover-LoDo
1628 16th Street
Denver, CO 80202
4/9/2012 San Diego
7:00 PM Mysterious Galaxy
7051 Clairemont Mesa Blvd
San Diego, CA 92111
7:30 PM Dallas Museum of Art
1717 N. Harwood Street
Dallas, TX 75214
7:00 PM Boswell´s Books
2559 Downer Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53211
6:00 PM Brookline Booksmith @Coolidge Theater
290 Harvard Street
Brookline, MA 02446
4/14/2012 Toronto â€“ Details to come
4/15/2012 Somewhere in Canada – Details to come
7:00 PM Politics & Prose
5015 Connecticut Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20008
4/17/2012 West Chester
7:00 PM Chester County Book Company
975 Paoli Pike
West Chester, PA 19380
4/18/2012 New York
7:00 PM Barnes & Noble Union Square
33 East 17th Street
New York, NY 10003
7:00 PM Copperfield´s Books
140 Kentucky Street
Petaluma, CA 94952
4/24/2012 Menlo Park
7:00 PM Kepler´s Books
1010 El Camino Real
Menlo Park, CA 94025
5:00 PM Vroman´s Bookstore
695 E. Colorado Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91101
4/29/2012 Huntington Beach
3:00 PM Barnes & Noble
7881 Edinger Ave #110
Huntington Beach, CA 92647
Merry Christmas, Booknerds!
You know my love for absurdist writer Christopher Moore, right? Well, per Christopher Moore via facebook, you can get the EBook of his holiday classic – “The Stupidest Angel” for $3.99 at the links below;
“The Stupidest Angel” is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read, and as far as I’m concerned it’s not Christmas without it. Do yourself a favor, and get this book while the deal is on.
Big Christopher Moore Fan, right here. I’ve read everything the wacky and irreverent Mr. Moore has published, and chuckled my way through all of it while being genuinely interested in the crazy stories being told. From the vampires and death-wielding thrift store owners “Bite Me” and “A Dirty Job” to the zombie-and-sea-monster-fighting inhabitants of the tourist town of Pine Cove.
Of all Moore’s works, “Fluke” is one of my favorites.
Nate, a marine biologist, is studying humpback whales off the coast of Hawaii when things get weird – a whale he and his crew are watching has “Bite Me” written on it’s tail, and their equipment gets sabotaged. That’s not even the weirdest part, but if I say anything more I’ll ruin things and then you’ll be mad at me and then where would we be? There are traces of “Moby Dick,” “Pinocchio,” and a whole boatload of sci-fi thrown around, and the whole thing comes off like an underwater version of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” Populated with colorful characters – including a white Rasta boy who Moore has used in other works – “Fluke” is a trip of a read.
There are some wonderful lines contained here, too.
“Actually, orcas aren’t quite as complex as scientists imagine. Most killer whales are just four tons of doofus dressed up like a police car.”
“Shoes off in the whale! And don’t try and make a break for the anus.”
“Animals might put up with that smiley shit, but people will eventually kill you for it.”
Just do yourself a favor – read it. Trust me.
“A Dirty Job” was my first ever exposure to an author I eagerly anticipate each new release from with a kind of Christmas morning relish. Christopher Moore is a wonderful writer of the absurd, a man as comfortable with pure nonsense as he is with a well-crafted and laugh-inducing story.
Having now absolutely read every single thing Moore has ever written, “A Dirty Job” remains my hands-down favorite – as well as one of my top five books of all time.
I re-read this book recently, and was reminded all over again why I adore it so much. In addition to being one of the funniest books on the planet, it’s got a compelling story with an original conceit, and a cast full of vivid and memorable characters.
Charlie Asher runs a thrift store in San Francisco. His wife Rachel dies giving birth to their first child, an adorable little girl named Sophie. Telling you Rachel dies isn’t a spoiler, since it happens in the first chapter. Almost immediately, Charlie’s life turns weird. Random strangers he encounters have items (like an umbrella) that only Charlie can see glowing, moments before the stranger dies. Turns out, Charlie has become a “Death Merchant.” (Think like a department store Santa Claus – not the REAL Santa, but merely a helper because Santa can’t be everywhere at once.) The glowing items contain the person’s soul, and Charlie has to take them from the dead people.
While Beta Male Charlie struggles to raise a baby as a single father, he also has to learn how to successfully ease strangers into death while not arousing the suspicion of a cop that’s hanging around. There are also a trio of black birds haunting him, and menacing him, which just makes him look crazy as he talks to them while walking down the street.
Fortunately, Charlie is aided in his complicated endeavors by some of the most colorful characters ever to arise from ink on paper. Charlie’s two store employees, loser Ray and goth-wiseass Lily, provide constant comic relief, while his lesbian sister and two elderly Asian lady neighbors share the duties of watching Sophie and trying to get their dear Charlie back into the world of dating. Lily, in particular, is a stand-out. A high schooler who swears like a sailor and changes hair color frequently, she provides tons of witty banter as well as actual relevant help. (Think of the Abby character from “NCIS,” and you’ll know what I mean. Only Lily is meaner.)
Moore likes to re-use his characters, which intertwines many of his novels (not unlike Stephen King) and “A Dirty Job” introduces Lily’s goth friend Abby Normal (who got her own Moore book recently with “Bite Me”) and a homeless man known as The Emperor of San Francisco, who’s made a few appearances through the years.
Oh, and there are two hellhounds who mysteriously appear to watch over Sophie.
Oh, and for some reason when little Sophie points at people and says “kitty,” they drop dead.
I can’t spoil the ending for you, but it’s a total surprise and a complete delight.
Even now, years after I first read it, re-reading it causes me to laugh out loud in public places. I still care about the characters and still get excited as the action ramps up. Why it hasn’t yet been adapted into a film or TV series I have no idea.
Fantastic book. I can’t tell you enough times to go read it. Go. Read it right now.
[Merry Christmas, everyone!!]
Holiday traditions aren’t something I put a lot of stock in, but over the past few years the coming of the Christmas season has meant that my copy of Christopher Moore’s joyously ridiculously “The Stupidest Angel” comes off the shelf for an annual reading.
The book is both a breeze and a blast, full of satire and silliness. From it’s opening moments, where a divorced couple gets into a fight in a grocery store parking lot while she’s dressed in a Santa suit (ringing a bell for the Salvation Army) and he fights her off with a bag of ice, you know Moore is in the best shape of his career.
The ex-husband (a jerk) dies mere pages later, killed by a shovel. Good times.
I should have begun this with a disclaimer that there has never been a Christopher Moore novel I haven’t loved. As far as I’m concerned, he’s as good a writer as they come, and a master of absurdity.
For folks who’ve read the bulk of the Moore collection, many of these characters will be familiar and it’ll feel like spending holidays with the wackiest members of your family. From the Pine Cove stories, Moore brings back Constable Theo Crowe and his now-wife Molly Michon (a former actress known best for her role as Kendra, Warrior Babe of the Outland) and some other townies. From Moore’s “Island of the Sequined Love-Nun” he brought in Tucker Case and his fruit bat Roberto. Literally, it’s like a big get together.
For newbies, it’s simply a laugh-out-loud funny book about pothead cops, new loves, zombies, warrior babes, and a little city by the sea at Christmas. There’s also an archangel, a Christmas party, and somewhere around the page 200 mark there’s a zombie attack. (So what if the zombies have plans to go to IKEA after they feast?)
It all ends happily – Strangely, but happily. It’s a grand adventure of a silly book, and this time next year I’ll haul it down from the shelf for another reading.
(Meanwhile, the long-anticipated film version of “The Stupidest Angel” appears to be in the world, if imdb.com tells the truth. Can Nathan Filion just sign on to play Tucker already, please?)
In the spirit of a holiday all about remembering things you’re thankful for, I decided to make a (short)list of books I’m grateful/thankful for.
Some of these are among my all-time favorites, but some are books I’m thankful for for other reasons.
The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant
Otherwise known as “The book my Mom told me to read for years, and I ignored – then, after actually reading it, had to admit it’s genius.”
My Mom is probably my favorite booknerd in the world, she’s always reading something and most of the time her recommendations are fantastic. This time around, it was probably six or seven years she told me to read this book, and for various reasons I didn’t. However, when I did, I discovered one of the best-written books I’ve ever encountered in my life. Diamant is brilliant at detailing female relationships and lives, and it’s a book I will always suggest to other readers.
Matilda, by Roald Dahl
For giving little bitty me the idea that there were other booknerds in the world – and that loving “Dahrls Chickens” was perfectly fine.
(Also for making me wish I could move things with my mind, but thats a whole different list.)
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
Good books, like friendships, last forever. In college, I met a girl named Aleisha, and we’ll be friends forever. There are two things that define our friendship – Boybands and Jane Austen. I’m thankful for Aleisha for also being a big Bronte/Austen nerd, and particularly for getting every Elizabeth Bennett/Darcy/Colonel Brandon/Miss Dashwood reference I have ever made. She’s a gem, just like this book.
Valley of the Dolls, by Jacqueline Susann
Not only has this book (and it’s fantastic film version) provided more moments of sheer joy with my dear friend Bob than nearly anything else I can think of, but I’ve also been able to dazzle folks with my 60s Hollywood knowledge on more than one occasion. Loving “Valley of the Dolls” is not a guilty pleasure – it’s one I’m proud of.
A Dirty Job, by Christopher Moore
I’m thankful Christopher Moore exists in this world to write wonderful books, all of which have brought me joy throughout the years I’ve been a fan. I’ve never encountered a book of his that hasn’t absolutely delighted me. I’m most thankful for “A Dirty Job” because it’s the book that introduced me to Moore and his wacky world. Literally, I first picked up the book based on the cover, as I was darting through a train station getting ready to head home for the holidays and needed reading material. The cover made me laugh, I bought it, and one of the great literary loves of my life was born.
So, readers, what books are y’all thankful for?