Tuesday, March 3, 2009

You Suck

No insult intended.

In between reading Anna Karenina and various other books, I've been reading Christopher Moore's You Suck:  A Love Story.  It's what I call my Car Book because it's the book I keep in the car to read when I'm stuck in traffic and at lunch on the one or two times a week that I have time to run out for lunch by myself.  I always have a Car Book but I've found that it can't be too complicated and it needs to have fairly short chapters because I'm reading it in spurts.  And sometimes days go by before I can pick it up again.

I picked You Suck because I've liked all the Christopher Moore novels I've ever read and I'd never read this one.  I should have looked more closely because it seems to be a sequel to another one of his novels, one that I've also apparently never read; I'm guessing  Bloodsucking Fiends if titles are anything to go by.  It is, you've probably guessed, about vampires. 

Picking a story about bloodsucking vampires probably wasn't the best choice for a book to read at lunch time.  But since Moore is a comic writer even the grizzly details are funny.  I must admit that this isn't my favorite Moore novel (in fact I would say that, so far, it is my least favorite) but it was fine for what I wanted.

I think one of the things I like about Moore novels is that he always creates such loveable male dorks.  In this case the dork is Tommy, a brand new vampire recently sired by his girlfriend Jody (yeah he knew she was a vampire but ... love).  In this scene Tommy is out looking for a minion who can run errands for him during daylight hours (I cannot even think of the word minion without thinking of Harmony on BtVS).  Tommy thinks he might have found a likely prospect at a club full of goths and vampire wannabes where Tommy is hanging out pretending not to be a vampire.  But the girl , a goth teen, turns out to be smarter than he thinks and suddenly she bares her neck and tells Tommy that he should "take her":

Tommy had no idea what to do. How did she know?  Everyone in that club would have scored higher on the "are you a vampire" test than he would. There needed to be a book and this sort of thing needed to be in it.  Should he deny it? Should he just get on with it?  What was he going to tell Jody when she woke up next to the skinny marionette girl? He hadn't really understood women when he was a normal, human guy, when it seemed that all you had to do was pretend that you didn't want to have sex with them until they would have sex with you, but being a vampire added a whole new aspect to things. Was he supposed to conceal that he was a vampire and a dork? He used to read the articles in Cosmo to get some clue to the female psyche, and so he deferred to advice he'd read in an article entitled "Think He's Just Pretending to Like You So You'll Have Sex with Him?  Try a Coffee Date."

"How bout I buy you a cup of coffee instead," he said.  "We can talk."

I love Moore's dorky guys.  Which is kind of funny because in real life dorky guys are way too much effort and tire me out after five minutes of conversation that goes nowhere.  After I finish a Moore novel I'm always convinced that I'm going to give the next dork I meet a chance. 

I think one of the reasons this is one of my least favorite Moore books is because, other than the two main characters being vampires, everyone is so normal.  There is no exotic location, as in Lamb or Island of the Sequined Love Nun.  The people aren't crazy as in The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Bay.  And other than a shaved cat, there are no animals or strange creatures as there were in Lust Lizard and Fluke.

The shaved cat, Chet, has personality but we never see anything from Chet's perspective.  Compare this with one of my favorite characters that Moore has ever created: a Labrador retriever named Skinner.  Skinner's human is another dorky guy who Skinner refers to as "food guy" but whose real name is Gabe. 

Skinner had been banished to the porch that afternoon, after he had taken a roll in a dead seagull and refused to go into the surf or go near a hose to be washed off. To Skinner, dead bird was the smell of romance.

Gabe crawled out of bed and padded to the door in his boxers, scooping up a hiking boot along the way. He was a biologist, held a Ph.D. in animal behavior from Stanford, so it was with great academic credibility that he opened the door and winged the boot at his dog, following it with the behavior-reinforcing command of: “Skinner, shut the fuck up!”

Skinner paused in his barking long enough to duck under the flying LL Bean then, true to his breeding, retrieved it from the washbasin that he used as a water dish and brought it back to the doorway where Gabe stood. Skinner set the soggy boot at the biologist’s feet. Gabe closed the door in Skinner’s face.

Jealous, Skinner thought. No wonder he can’t get any females, smelling like fabric softener and soap. The Food Guy wouldn’t be so cranky if he’d get out and sniff some butts. (Skinner always thought of Gabe as “the Food Guy.”) Then after a quick sniff to confirm that he was, indeed, the Don Juan of all dogs, Skinner resumed his barking fit. Doesn’t he get it, Skinner thought, there’s something dangerous coming. Danger Food Guy! Danger!

Now that's a character with personality.  And Gabe wasn't bad either.

Moore has a new book coming out called Fool that is, apparently, set in England and involves Shakespeare (or at least Shakespearian language). The Globe and Mail published a Q&A with Moore as part of the promotion for the new novel.   Someone asked him how he researches his books:

Generally, when I get an idea, I read a few books on the subject, but then I go to where the book takes place. For Lamb I spent three weeks in Israel. For Coyote Blue I lived on the Crow Reservation for a months. I think really start forming the story and doing the academic research, which may involve archeology, sociology, geography, history, religion... well, you get the idea. I'd say I probably read 100 or more books for Lamb, and had to completely map out the Gospels into a coherent time-line, as well as create characters who only have one line in the Gospels, or sometimes are only named. Yes, it can get pretty intense.

For a book like Lamb the research can take a couple of years. For Fool, my new one that's just out, it was over a year just to learn the Shakespeare and British idiom enough to write a British-sounding comedy.

This sounds encouraging.  It would be more encouraging if one of the main characters was a non-human mammal.