May 14, 2014

Moore's Serpent of Venice: Improving on the Fool




I like Chris Moore’s work.  I have read several previous books, and I have been an advocate of his by telling others that they need to read his work.  I think there are still a couple I haven’t read, but I think based on what I do know of his work I can rate him amongst the best at what he does recently. I’m not sure just what that is, or if there are genre considerations or cliques that I am not aware of, but in my mind he is a fabulist humorist – so he’s up there with Calvino and Tom Robbins.

That said, I did not like _Fool_. I really liked what he did with his version of the greatest story ever told, but for some reason I couldn’t get into his retelling of King Lear. I didn’t like the characters he fleshed out, and to be quite frank, Lear is a boring play. It took me a while to understand why I didn’t like Fool, and my conclusion is that Moore was too close to the source material in Fool. It took 300 pages for King to give away his stuff, and then yell at the wind.

So to be honest, I wasn’t too excited to learn that Moore resurrected Pocket for his next book. He was flat and too smart and too powerful without granting a full believable explanation of his back story. He was taking Pocket (And Jones, Drool, and Jeff) to Venice to live the Shakespearian Venetian plays of Othello and A Merchant of Venice.   Here’s the thing: I liked this book much more than I did Fool. I have read and seen the source material staged (with much enjoyment). What I was able to do was to stop comparing the book I was reading to the source material. Moore makes A Serpent of Venice his own story where Fool was too derivative of its source. It’s like how A Wide Sargasso Sea is both Jane Eyre and nothing like Jane Eyre – Rhys created her own world, and that’s what Moore accomplishes.  This one is also less bawdy and Pocket feels more fleshed out, but that could just be me. I recommend this book to any Chris Moore fan, and those who will soon be.

A couple of notes: Moore claims that the Poe story A Cask of Amontillado is also a source. It is, but just barely. What I more appreciated was slipping Coleridge’s Kubla Kahn in the work. Moore was able to play with the classics and create his own, which is hard so he deserves credit.