This is a guest post by urban fantasy author and Book Country member Jamie Wyman (@BeeGirlBlue).
You can’t have a conversation about humor in fiction without bringing up Christopher Moore. With more than a dozen books to his credit, he’s had decades to perfect the craft of writing with deep stories with charming levity.
My first experience with Moore’s work was a few years back when someone handed me LAMB. It was advertised as the “Gospel according to Biff, Christ’s childhood pal”. Based on that alone, I was willing to give it a shot. Within the first chapter I’d laughed out loud at least five times. And it just got funnier. You might wonder how someone can take something like the New Testament and make it funny, but Moore pulled it off superbly.
After that, I dove into the man’s catalog like a kid in a ball pit. The San Francisco Vampire Books (BLOODSUCKING FIENDS, YOU SUCK and BITE ME) had elements of romance with the humor. FLUKE touched the mysteries of whale song, a subject near and dear to my heart. And COYOTE BLUE set my mind to reeling about gods and tricksters. As I read his earliest works (PRACTICAL DEMONKEEPING, THE LUST LIZARD OF MELANCHOLY COVE and ISLAND OF THE SEQUINED LOVE NUN), though, I could see decent stories that lacked the depth of LAMB. Sure, they were hilarious romps through the trials of his characters, but they just didn’t have the prismatic quality to the writing.
Then, I read A DIRTY JOB. There are familiar faces in this book, as Moore’s work is self-referential. And, like most of Moore’s heroes, Charlie Asher is a beta male. He’s not strong or brilliant. He’s barely middle management. Basically, the guys is just trying to eke out a life under the radar when all hell breaks loose, his wife dies and he discovers that he is a Grim Reaper. But, there’s something about this story that I hadn’t seen since LAMB. A beautiful tragedy that has you laughing through tears.
That’s when I understood what makes Moore’s work so different and—in my ever so humble opinion—amazing. He uses humor like a painter uses chiaroscuro: the goofy stuff sets off the tragedies of his characters, the light makes the dark that much deeper. With LAMB, it doesn’t get more tragic than the Crucifixion. But by leading us through Josh’s story with laughter, we’ve connected to him—and Biff—in ways that take that sadness to the next level. Even an atheist would cry to see these dear friends parted in such a horrible way.
His work has taken a definite turn over the past ten years or so. After A DIRTY JOB—a story about death—Moore tackled the Bard by retelling King Lear from the perspective of the king’s jester. FOOL is a work of art. If you have any love for Shakespeare, do yourself the favor of reading this. Most recently, Moore took on the French impressionists with SACRE BLEU. It reads with all the color and charm of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, while still maintaining Moore’s signature irreverent humor:
He preferred to not think of his mother as having hips. He preferred to not think of her as a woman at all, more as a traveling mass of loving annoyance – a mother-shaped storm that inhabited the bakery and, in bringing rain for the growth of the living things over which she hovered, didn’t mind scaring the piss out of them with a few thunderbolts from time to time. –SACRE BLEU.
If you’re looking for a master storyteller who has managed to write witty prose while still telling an evocative, moving tale, look no further. Pick up some Christopher Moore, prepare for an ab workout, and take notes. This is humor at its best.
About Jamie Wyman: After a misspent adulthood pursuing a Music Education degree, Jamie fostered several interests before discovering that being an author means never having to get out of pajamas. As an author, Jamie’s favorite playgrounds are urban fantasy, horror and creepy carnival settings. When she’s not traipsing about with her imaginary friends, she lives in Phoenix with two hobbits and two cats. She is proud to say she has a deeply disturbed following at her blog.
Jamie’s debut novel, TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES, will be coming to an e-reader near you November 2013 thanks to Entangled Publishing. You can also find her short story “The Clever One” in the anthology WHEN THE HERO COMES HOME 2 (Dragon Moon Press, August ’13). You can follow her on Twitter @BeeGirlBlue. Author Webiste: www.jamiewyman.com.
Photo Credit: © Eric Fiallos