Friday Flashback is hosted by Jen @ The Introverted Reader
Originally reviewed: April 18, 2010.
I should probably start this review by saying that I found this book in what I now think is probably the most inappropriate place possible.. the Young Adult section of my town library. I'd wanted to read this for a long time, but whenever I browsed the Moore books in the adult section, it was never to be found. I always figured, "Eh, someone probably has it checked out... I'll snag it next time." Oh, silly me. I was foolishly thinking that my library would shelve a mature book full of extremely adult humor, sex and fart jokes, sodomy, sex, alchemy & magic (AKA "The Occult"), sex, abominations, bestiality, group sex with tiny Chinese women with names like "Divine Dance of the Joyous Orgasm", cursing, fantasies about sex and dreams of having sex when not having any, in the adult section. I was mistaken. Apparently the word "childhood" in the title qualified this as YA.
But here's what I find most interesting... Either the kids who've checked it out are wise enough to keep their mouths shut to their parents about what their reading material contains, or this book looks boring enough that not a single kid has actually read it.
I live in a pretty Christian area. It's no bible belt, but people here take God seriously. I'd never even heard of some of the religious dietary restrictions that people practice here. Not that I'm saying that's a bad thing, just that it was new to me to order meat on a Friday and get a I-Pity-Your-Immortal-Soul look. Something to get used to, you know? So anyway, I say this to point out that had any one of the kids who may have read this book actually tipped their hand, there would be outrage. Mass outrage. Because not only should this book have a NC-17 rating (if ratings were given, which I would very much disagree with), it turns Jesus's short life, and the nature and origins of the Christian religion on it's head, and could make many people very angry. This book practically begs to be banned... at the very least challenged.
So of course I loved it. :D
I want to rub elbows with Christopher Moore, if only so that I can try to steal some of his Funny. I was giggling like mad through big chunks of this book, and in places where the action dragged a little, the humor kept everything moving right along.
Biff is the kind of person that everyone wants around. He's hilarious and stupid, and hilarious because he's stupid. But he's not REALLY stupid, he's just not exactly head of his class, or the brightest bulb on the tree. His goal in life was to be a professional mourner, or failing that, a village idiot. Biff, sadly uncredited, created sarcasm. Where would I be without him?? I'd have no way to communicate at all! I'd have to grunt and point at things.
The story starts with Biff watching Joshua (aka Jesus) healing a poor lizard in his mouth after his younger brother brained it with a rock. He then gives it back to the brother, who brains it, J heals it, and the cycle continues. Starting off on a properly blasphemous foot, yeah? We follow J and Biff as they both meet and love Mary Magdalene, learn stonemasonry, witness a murder, try to raise the dead and have many adventures and acquire much learning. Much of this learning comes from ancient Chinese philosophy and Buddhism, so there was a lot of meditation and sitting and thinking and sitting. And sitting. The story ends, of course, with the crucifixion, which brought a tear to my eye, even though it was not drawn out or graphic or gory. It was just that, reading that section, you could feel Biff's love and devotion and agony for Joshua, and my empathy nerve kicked me in the tearduct. (It does that.) Moore is generally known for writing humor and satire and generally funny/quirky/absurd stuff, but here he showed off his ability to make the reader wish they had a time machine to stop the torture and death from happening. If you believe that it did happen, of course. I'm down with Jesus being a real person, I'm just not sure about the "Son of God" part.
Anyway, here are some quotes (by no means all of them) that had me cracking up:
1) Back story: Biff is frustrated trying to learn to speak hip-hop from MTV.
"Why is it that one can busta rhyme or busta move anywhere but you must busta cap in someone's ass? Is 'ho' always feminine, and 'muthafucka' always masculine, while 'bitch' can be either? How many peeps in a posse, how much booty before baby got back, do you have to be all that to get all up in that, and do I need to be dope and phat to be da bomb or can I just be 'stupid'? I'll not be singing over any dead mothers until I understand."
2) Back story: 10 year old Biff loves Joshua's mom, Mary, whom people think is crazy.
...I think that when I'm a man, and your father dies, I will take your mother as my wife."
Joshua made a face now as if he had bitten into an unripe fig. "Don't say that, Biff."
"I don't mind that she's mad. I like her blue cloak. And her smile. I'll be a good father, I'll teach you how to be a stonemason, and I'll only beat you when you are a snot."
"I would rather play with lepers than listen to this." Joshua began to walk away.
"Wait. Be nice to your father, Joshua bar Biff" -- my own father used my full name like this when he was trying to make a point -- "Is not the word of Moses that you must honor me?"
Little Joshua spun on his heel. "My name is not Joshua bar Biff, and it is not Joshua bar Joseph either. It's Joshua bar Jehovah!"
I looked around, hoping that nobody had heard him. I didn't want my only son (I planned to sell Judah and James into slavery) to be stoned to death for uttering the name of God in vain. "Don't say that again, Josh. I won't marry your mother."
"No, you won't."
"I forgive you."
"She will make an excellent concubine."
Don't let anyone tell you that the Prince of Peace never struck anyone. In those early days, before he had become who he would be, Joshua smote me in the nose more than once. That was the first time.
3) Back story: Joshua cannot know a woman (in that way), so Biff tries to teach him about the sin of fornication by proxy.
Back out at the front of the inn I shopped for my teaching assistant. It was an eight-harlot inn, if that's how you measure an inn. (I understand that now they measure inns in stars. We are in a four-star inn right now. I don't know what the conversion from harlots to stars is.)
... Harlot is selected, and brought into a stall, with Joshua in the next stall, listening ...
"How does her body feel? Do you feel sinful? Is it like Satan rubbing against you? Does it burn like fire?"
"Yeah, you got it. That pretty much has it."
Then Josh said something in Greek that I didn't catch all of and the harlot answered, sort of.
"What did she say?" Josh asked.
"I don't know, you know my Greek is bad."
"Mine isn't, I couldn't understand what she said."
"Her mouth is full."
Set (the harlot) raised up. "Not full," she said in Greek.
"Hey, I understood that!"
"She has you in her mouth?"
"It doesn't feel heinous."
"No, Josh, I gotta tell you, this really is -- oh my God!"
"What? What's happening?"
"She's getting dressed."
"Are you done sinning? That's it?"
The harlot said something in Greek that I didn't understand.
"What did she say?" I asked.
"She said that for the amount of money we gave her, you're finished."
"Do you think you understand fornication now?"
"Well then, give her some more money, Joshua. We're going to stay here until you learn what you need to know."
"You're a good friend to suffer this for me."
"Don't mention it."
I think that's enough to be getting along with. This is the kind of stuff that just had me cracking up. If you aren't the squeamish or easily offended type (and sorry if you are, for all the above stuff), you should read this. It's worth it. :)