Friday, March 13, 2015


Here's why I love Christopher Moore.

His latest comic novel is The Serpent of Venice, an entertaining pastiche of Othello, and The Merchant of Venice, with a soupcon of Poe tossed in, and a guest appearance by Marco Polo.

There's a moment late in the story when the lady Emilia has cause to be even more horrified than usual by the schemes of her devious husband, Iago.

"Thou mendacious fuckweasel!" she spits at him.

Talk about le mot juste!

Having gleefully played havoc with King Lear in a previous novel, Fool, which brings that  character front and center to tell the story his way, Moore has another go at Shakespeare in this sequel. This time, the wily and resourceful Pocket, fool to a king and consort to a queen, is on a diplomatic mission to Venice that turns into a crusade for revenge.
Moore sets his tale in a recognizable historical period, although not the one Shakespeare envisioned. He moves the action of the two Venetian plays back in time by about 300 years (to 13th Century Venice), so they sync up with the more medieval setting of Fool.

But, like Shakespeare, Moore manipulates the historical setting to grapple with issues familiar in his (and our) world. 

With the irrepressible Pocket as his protagonist, Moore's tone is unfailingly comic throughout—witty, profane, brash, and scatalogical. But the issues he tilts against with such vigor are serious, from excoriating the idea of religious warfare as a twisted kind of patriotism, to the notion of a corrupt merchant class that's "too big to fail."

As this series progresses (oh, please, let there be more Pocket stories!), Moore turns some of the Bard's most timeless tragedies on their ears, and restores justice—for good and ill—to some of Shakespeare's most deserving characters.

Most satisfying of all, Moore demonstrates how a few smart women (most of whom were only minor characters to Shakespeare), and an honest fool can subvert even the most mendacious political fuckery.

Christopher Moore, posing as his alter ego!

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