Shakespeare for Squirrels

img_6788Book: Shakespeare for Squirrels by Christopher Moore

Date Read: November 5 to 15, 2020

Rating: 4 (of 5) stars

As an intro for this book, I am going to repeat the same sentiment that I had for last year’s November prompt from The Unread Shelf Project: I have no idea what my favorite genre is. This year I enlisted a friend to talk me through figuring it out, but we both ended up a little stumped. As it turns out, apparently my favorite genre is “fiction;” which seems too nonspecific for the prompt, and also means about 90% of the books currently on my to read shelf. We decided that an acceptable adjustment would be to choose a book by a favorite author, leading to books from Christopher Moore meeting prompts in two different months of 2020! It seems fitting for such a wacky year.

If you have been around Books On My Cat for awhile, you may know that this is the third book from Moore that I have written about. In the past, I described his writing as “a unique combination of humor, intelligence, and absurdity,” and commented on his masterful ability to create new life while building from a well-known source material. Both of these hold true in Shakespeare for Squirrels, and I continue to marvel at the research, time, and thought put into a work so riddled with penis jokes.

This is the third book that features Pocket, the fool in the court of King Lear, who readers first met in Fool. After the downfall of Lear and some shenanigans in Venice, Pocket finds himself on the shore of Greece amid goblins, fairies, and manipulative royals. The main feature here follows along with Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but also draws upon other aspects from the full spectrum of Shakespeare canon. He keeps many stylistic elements true to the work of Shakespeare, with some modernizations and creative curses thrown in for good measure.

Having not read the original work, I am not as familiar with particular play, and so find it difficult to point to specific links in the stories. However, the framework is definitely there, and my limited knowledge of the play did not lessen my enjoyment of this new take. I really enjoyed the “play within a play” aspect put together in “Act 3” of the novel, which served to pull together several individual lines running throughout the book. With some luck and a little fairy magic, Pocket makes it through to the end only a bit worse for wear, and ready to head off in the direction of his next adventure.

Boris’s Thoughts: “I may not know Shakespeare, but I know squirrels; and this is definitely squirrelly. 4 paws.”

Unread Shelf Progress for November

  • Books Read: 3
  • Books Acquired: 2
  • Total Unread Books: 268


img_4487Book: Noir by Christopher Moore

Date Read: May 1 to 16, 2020

Rating: 4 (of 5) stars

In May, the Unread Shelf Project challenged everyone to read a “backlist” title from their shelves. I had to put a little work into this one, because that is honestly not something that I usually track. I have some obvious new(er) release books, but often buy based on recommendations, so do not always end up with the latest that is out there. While I was debating the best way to choose a title, I received a notification that a book I had pre-ordered awhile back would be out this month—which reminded me that I had never gotten to this author’s previous release! Serendipity.

I am going to start out by admitting a slight bias: I really enjoy this author. His writing has a unique combination of humor, intelligence, and absurdity that I love. I was intrigued by the idea of a noir novel, although I confess that I only really have a general idea of what makes something “noir.” Throughout reading, I felt that this became clearer to me, and I think it was done well—although I’m not familiar with noir literature, this definitely had the feeling of film noir, and I could picture scenes on a movie screen in black and white.

Appropriately, it all begins when a dame walks into a bar. From there, we end up with a fair amount of scene setting: a slew of characters, and several possibilities of where the story many be going. Everyone seems to be “working an angle,” and although there was some general predictability, the pieces come together interestingly. We have the girl who we know is going to be trouble for the leading man Sammy, and then a mystery when she disappears. The story is told from a double perspective, sometimes first person by Sammy and sometimes from the perspective of an unknown narrator. Early on, the second narrator mentions that he is part of the story, but will not reveal himself yet.

The first two thirds or so of this novel were a nice set up to the main plot and problem of the narrative. There were several pieces included that seemed secondary to the plot, but were woven in nicely to the conclusion. It was a bit different from what I usually expect from Moore: while it was definitely his brand of humor, there was less outright absurdity than I have come to expect. Not a bad thing of course, just something a bit different. Of course, Moore came through with just the right touch of lunacy to round things out in the end, including the revelation of the secretive second narrator.

Boris’s Thoughts: “I do not approve of how this book talks about cats. 1 paw.”

Unread Shelf Progress for May

  • Books Read: 1
  • Books Acquired: 2
  • Total Unread Books: 253
  • Also: 1 book unshelved, removed 1 book double counted, 1 book started

Bloodsucking Fiends

img_6096Book: Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore

Date Read: Various

Rating: 5 (of 5) stars

So I’m doing it again. It has been quite some time since I’ve read this book, but have come back to it several times. So, I will start with a story.

I discovered Christopher Moore when I was in college. There was a Borders Books near campus, which was where I often spent my long breaks between afternoon and evening classes, browsing and adding to my to read list rather than working on homework or reading for class. Borders liked to do these weekly table sales: buy 2 get one free, or buy one get one half off. It was like I had to find more than one to add to my ongoing collection. (Incidentally, I consider this a primary contributing factor to my now out-of-control to read list of 260+ books.) Anyways: it was on one of these tables that I found “You Suck: A Love Story.” I’m not generally a big fan of romance novels, so I was obviously intrigued. Upon discovering it was the follow up to a novel called “Bloodsucking Fiends” (also a love story), I knew I had to read them both.

Within a few pages, I knew I was hooked on Christopher Moore. His novels are well thought out, a bit ridiculous, and hurt your stomach laughing out loud funny. I love that he takes on subjects and characters that are well known, but then makes them his own. These are not the same vampires you know from Bram Stoker and Anne Rice, but that doesn’t stop them from researching themselves in the source materials.

Speaking of research, despite the zaniness of it all, it is clear the Moore does his homework before embarking on a novel. He shows a clear understanding of the material from which his characters grow, and masterfully guides them into new life. That’s right, I just described a guy who incorporates fart and penis jokes into all his writing as “masterful.” Really though, how else can you describe someone who can perfectly meld pure ridiculous with well known mythology? Somehow, you end up with a novel that makes you think, but also makes you laugh.

As a final comment on Christopher Moore, I think it’s important to note that he does not just draw on classic material, but also on his own. Although I would not consider them to be in any way a series, his novels all take place in the same world. This ranges from brief cameos to full on character borrowing. It’s not unusual to suddenly realize that a character is familiar because they were introduced through a minor part in a previously read book. While I suppose some might find annoying, I appreciate that Moore is able to make this feel natural. I have not yet encountered an issue with story continuity, nor have I felt that I didn’t get “enough” about a character in an individual novel.

Boris’s thoughts: “You know you’re never going to finish that to read list if you keep rereading books. Whatever. 3 paws.”