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Verily speaks Christopher Moore, much beloved scrivener and peerless literary jester, who hath writteneth much that is of grand wit and belly-busting mirth, including such laurelled bestsellers of the "Times of Olde Newe Yorke" as "Lamb," "A Dirty Job," and "You Suck" (no offense). Now he takes on no less than the legendary Bard himself (with the utmost humility and respect) in a twisted and insanely funny tale of a moronic monarch and his deceitful daughters--a rousing story of plots, subplots, counterplots, betrayals, war, revenge, bared bosoms, unbridled lust . . . and a ghost (there's always a bloody ghost), as seen through the eyes of a man wearing a codpiece and bells on his head.
A man of infinite jest, Pocket has been Lear's cherished fool for years, from the time the king's grown daughters--selfish, scheming Goneril, sadistic (but erotic-fantasy-grade-hot) Regan, and sweet, loyal Cordelia--were mere girls. So naturally Pocket is at his brainless, elderly liege's side when Lear--at the insidious urging of Edmund, the bastard (in every way imaginable) son of the Earl of Gloucester--demands that his kids swear their undying love and devotion before a collection of assembled guests. Of course Goneril and Regan are only too happy to brownnose Dad. But Cordelia believes that her father's request is kind of . . . well . . .stupid, and her blunt honesty ends up costing her her rightful share of the kingdom and earns her a banishment to boot.
Well, now the bangers and mash have really hit the fan. The whole damn country's about to go to hell in a handbasket because of a stubborn old fart's wounded pride. And the only person who can possibly make things right . . . is Pocket, a small and slight clown with a biting sense of humor. He's already managed to sidestep catastrophe (and the vengeful blades of many an offended nobleman) on numerous occasions, using his razor-sharp mind, rapier wit . . . and the equally well-honed daggers he keeps conveniently hidden behind his back. Now he's going to have to do some very fancy maneuvering--cast some spells, incite a few assassinations, start a war or two (the usual stuff)--to get Cordelia back into Daddy Lear's good graces, to derail the fiendish power plays of Cordelia's twisted sisters, to rescue his gigantic, gigantically dim, and always randy friend and apprentice fool, Drool, from repeated beatings . . . and to shag every lusciously shaggable wench who's amenable to shagging along the way.
Pocket may be a fool . . . but he's definitely not an idiot.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 29.
- Review Date: 2008-10-20
- Reviewer: Staff
Here's the Cliff Notes you wished you'd had for King Lear—the mad royal, his devious daughters, rhyming ghosts and a castle full of hot intrigue—in a cheeky and ribald romp that both channels and chides the Bard and “all Fate's bastards.” It's 1288, and the king's fool, Pocket, and his dimwit apprentice, Drool, set out to clean up the mess Lear has made of his kingdom, his family and his fortune—only to discover the truth about their own heritage. There's more murder, mayhem, mistaken identities and scene changes than you can remember, but bestselling Moore (You Suck) turns things on their head with an edgy 21st-century perspective that makes the story line as sharp, surly and slick as a game of Grand Theft Auto. Moore confesses he borrows from at least a dozen of the Bard's plays for this buffet of tragedy, comedy and medieval porn action. It's a manic, masterly mix—winning, wild and something today's groundlings will applaud. (Feb.)
Unfit for a king
Christopher Moore's re-imagining of the King Lear story is closer to Shakespeare on acid than Shakespeare in the Park. The comic novelist kicks tragedy to the nunnery in Fool, a Monty Python-esque tale of irreverence, profanity and gratuitous sex. Who knew the mad king and his three daughters were so much fun?
Moore's story is told by Pocket, the Fool. Lear's favorite jester, Pocket is horrified when the king disowns his youngest daughter, Cordelia, and divides his kingdom between his two older daughters, the sadistic Regan and viperish Goneril. Since Cordelia is Pocket's favoriteand the only daughter the Fool has not shaggedhe hatches a plan replete with treachery, double crosses and an invasion by the French army to get Cordelia back at court where she belongs. Aligned against Pocket are the sisters, who mistrust him almost as much as they enjoy dragging him to their royal beds; Edmund, the dastardly illegitimate son of the Earl of Gloucester; and the combined forces of two armies.
Pocket's allies are an old, discredited knight and his apprentice fool, Drool. Smart as his name implies, Drool nevertheless owns the uncanny ability to repeat conversations word-for-word in the exact voices of the original speakers. Also on Pocket's sidepossiblyare a comely ghost, who is not above pinning down the generously endowed Drool for a spot of fun, and a trio of witches.
Moore creates a fun voice in Pocket, who lives by his wits and quick tongue in a land where only strength and royal birth are important. Pocket carries a tiny image of himself on a stick called Jones, used as a ventriloquist's dummy to utter jibes that may otherwise beget a beheading. The reader gets the impression that Moore uses Pocket the same way as he both lampoons and pays homage to Shakespeare, liberally sprinkling quotes from the Bard's works throughout. Of course, not all of the lines are Shakespeare's. When the grizzled old king asks Pocket if he is deadMoore's characters often voice confusion in that regardthe jester answers in the negative, saying, "but ye were close enough to lick death's salty taint."
Does the Royal Shakespeare Company issue fatwas?
Ian Schwartz writes from San Diego, California.