Written by Jess Peacock
When writing of the The Middle Ages, the Italian scholar and poet Petrarch wrote, "Amidst the errors there shone forth men of genius, no less keen were their eyes, although they were surrounded by darkness and dense gloom." Darkness? Dense gloom? Substantial stuff. So, who better than the "authorguy" himself, Christopher Moore, to show us the lighter side of that particularly difficult period of human history labeled as The Dark Ages.
Perhaps most famous for tackling the hot button issue of the life and death of Jesus with his signature mix of high and low brow humor ("I think the act of faith is perhaps the most active commitment to imagination that the normal person ever makes"), Moore then confronted the difficult experience of caring for his dying mother with his Quill award winning novel A Dirty Job. Now, Moore is set to get medieval on our collective ass with Fool, currently scheduled for release in February 2009 from HarperCollins.
"This one is set in Medieval England, my first foray into that time period," Moore explains. "Basically it's my take on Shakespeare. King Lear from the point of the Fool. Because I write comedy, I sort of see the Fool as being an archetype for my profession. Especially the ability of the Fool to speak truth to power."
A writer not easily categorized ("Everything inspires me, especially shiny things"), Moore has targeted his razor sharp wit on everything from alien(ish) controlled whales, yuletide zombies, a homeless Emperor of San Francisco, a giant talking fruit bat, human devouring demons, lovelorn vampires, and a globe trotting Jesus. Therefore, it seems as if Pocket, the titular Fool of Moore's upcoming novel, would fit right in with such a motley pantheon of characters. "I've written about tricksters throughout my career, so I wanted to write a book about someone who, more or less, has the job of being a trickster."
A historical comedy with a literal Fool as the protagonist is somewhat in Moore's wheelhouse with the success of his biblical epic Lamb and it's crass, yet big-hearted narrator Biff. Ostensibly nothing more than a bumbling idiot next to his best friend Joshua (Jesus), Biff inadvertently reveals many timeless truths that propel the Messiah forward to his inevitable destiny. "I think they are similar in that they are both tremendously sharp in some ways and completely dense in others," Moore says in comparing Pocket and Biff. "I'd say that they are also pretty brave and, at heart, noble, despite being hopeless horn dogs."
Having already spent three weeks in Israel in an attempt to inform the life of the characters in Lamb, Fool once again took the author overseas. "I took two trips to England and one to France, focusing on medieval sites. I also read most of the complete works of Shakespeare and attended many live performances of King Lear. Strangely enough, I also watched a lot of BBC sitcoms so I could pick up the modern British idiom."
As happy as one might be to discover that sitting on the couch and watching sitcoms from across the pond can be construed as research, that is exactly what made Pocket one of Moore's most challenging characters to write. "It was the language that made it difficult. He speaks in a hybrid dialect that I invented that's a mix of Elizabethan English, modern Britcom slang, and complete balderdash. It had to be comprehensible to my American audience, but seem authentic to the period…plus he's living in the 13th Century."
After Fool, Moore is planning on a sequel to his bestsellers Bloodsucking Fiends and You Suck. Currently titled Bite Me, it's a return to fan-favorite vampire lovers Tommy and Jody, characters close to the author's heart. "Tommy's a kid from the Midwest trying to make it in California as a writer, while suffering more than a little culture shock. Short the vampires, that's sort of who I was when I was nineteen. So his personality is like a snapshot of my youth."
"It's going along well," Moore explains of Bite Me. "I've written most of the characters and the setting before, so it's just figuring out how to make stuff happen."
Making stuff happen does not seem to be a problem for Moore who already has another book planned after Bite Me ("I'm going to write a book set in Paris next. I can't really tell you more than that") and a potential sequel to A Dirty Job ("I'm holding off to see if Chris Columbus does anything with the movie.") On top of all of this, Moore has expressed an interest in following up on his whale adventure Fluke, "but everyone from my agent to my editor is down on me doing a whale book."
Whether we end up in Paris, return to Asher's Second Hand Store, or find ourselves back on the darkened streets of San Francisco with a certain red-headed vampiress, Moore plans on continuing to deliver his brand of humor infused genre bending tales of faith, hope and love. "I think as long as I have the mental facilities I'll keep writing. I've actually tried to do straight horror," he explains. "But something usually ends up being funny."