Thursday, May 22, 2014

Shelf Life [adult]

The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore
@SPL: FIC Moore, FBCD Moore

Author Christopher Moore could not have timed it better - just in time for the Stratford Festival season’s opening, his latest novel The Serpent of Venice mashes up three (or more) of Shakespeare’s most famous and gut-wrenching tragedies – into a most gut-busting hilarious chain of events. It takes a person with a great deal of hutzpah to take Othello, The Merchant of Venice and King Lear, puree them into one (fairly) believable story, make them funny, and give them all much happier endings (the villains come to some very sticky ends). But not only does Moore meld the plots, he also throws in elements from Edgar Allan Poe and not a small smattering of history in the Travels of Marco Polo. Plus there’s a wandering chorus, an amorous and homesick dragon, and a ghost - as Pocket, the title character would say, “There’s always a bloody ghost.”  Now, to get the full picture, readers unfamiliar with Moore’s work may want to begin with the first novel to feature Pocket the jester, called Fool – which parodies King Lear in full (there’s a ghost in that one, too). However The Serpent of Venice is a romp for any Shakespeare fan who does not mind Moore’s habitual irreverence for his source material; in that way, he is somewhat like the Bard himself. That is not to say Moore did not do his homework – according to the author notes he was quite careful in his research and used historical events to bind the various plots together. In fact, his attention to detail makes his novels more than just cheeky fluff.  However, the details to which he pays attention are those that lie between the lines, the details that may be overlooked in a casual reading of history and the Bard, the details that may make those readers of Shakespeare sit up and go, “well, THAT’S interesting…”  By the way, Moore can out-bawdy the Bard, so be prepared for some truly lewd wordplay and inventive uses of the f-bomb. I would dearly love Moore’s novel adapted for the stage, but until an enterprising playwright decides to take that on, we can enjoy the narration of Euan Morton on the audiobook version as well. The Serpent of Venice currently sits at the top of my favourite books list of 2014, and can be reserved on BiblioCommons. Enjoy!

Published in the Stratford Gazette on May 22. Written by Robyn Godfrey, Collections and Outreach Librarian.

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