New Fiction: The Serpent of Venice – Christopher Moore

No surprise that this one’s an Indie Next pick. For as long as I can remember, Chris Moore has been a bookseller favorite. And actually “favorite” underplays it…booksellers are crazy about him. Pretty much all the rest of reading America also loves Moore’s brand of literate zaniness and we can always count on Chris to hit the national bestseller lists.

What’s this one about? Oh… that’s always hard to quantify. Nominally, this book is a mash-up of Othello, The Merchant of Venice and Poe’s ““The Cask of Amontillado.” On top of that, it’s a sequel to 2009’s bestselling Fool, Moore’s retelling of King Lear. And there’s a sea monster, too. 🙂

PW interviewed Moore in January. In “Joyful Vulgarity: PW Talks with Christopher Moore” they asked Chris about the inspiration for this novel.

Everything in Venice is just a little bit creepy, as much as it’s beautiful. I thought it would be the perfect spot for a monster story. And as I studied the history, I realized there was also a political comment I could make.

The Serpent of Venice is about merchants and politicians trying to start a war for profit in the Middle East and being undone by a goofy little fool and a black general. That’s not an accidental metaphor. I liked the idea of playing with it because it’s something that happened in 13th century Venice. And once you put a Moorish general in charge of a crusade, you can add a Jewish moneylender.”

Regarding the return of Pocket, the fool, he says: “I love British cursing—the cadence of it, the joy in the sound of the words, and the vulgarity of it. Pocket’s not only speaking truth to power, but he’s doing it in the most outrageous, profane way that I can possibly think of…. All of the trickster, rascal characters that I write have the voice I aspire to. In real life, you can’t be that obnoxious and get away with it.”

Two starred advance reviews for this one. And bookseller Carol Schneck Varner at Schuler Books in Music in Okemos, MI said in her Indie Next nomination:

Christopher Moore has always been a fantastic comic writer, with a fierce intelligence behind his relentlessly entertaining books. Most recently he’s been giving that intelligence free rein, taking art, history and Shakespeare into unexpected, humorous new realms, and The Serpent of Venice is his most delightful book yet. The Serpent of Venice continues the adventures of Pocket, the titular jester of Fool, as he befriends Shylock’s daughter, tries to straighten things out for Othello and Desdemona, and gets mixed up in Venetian politics, some of which bear a disturbing similarity to current events…and did I mention the sea serpent?  Hilarious, thought-provoking, and thoroughly enjoyable!”

“[A] laugh-out-loud good time that would leave Shakespeare himself chuckling. Fans of Fool will be overjoyed to rejoin Pocket and company . . . for their latest adventure, and newcomers will find that Shakespeare isn’t nearly as dry and dusty as they thought, at least not when Moore is at the helm. Highly recommended.”
Library Journal (starred review)

“ [I]f you’re a fan of Moore’s brand of history-mangling humor, you’ll dive right in with a big grin on your face. The grins win in the end.”
Booklist (starred review)

“[A] standout sequel to Fool . . . . Moore’s imaginative storytelling, bawdy prose, puns aplenty . . . succeed in transforming two classical tragedies into outrageously farcical entertainment. In conjunction with the historical setting, the humor also allows Moore to skewer greed, hypocrisy, and racism . . . .”
Publishers Weekly 

The Serpent of Venice (9780061779763) by Christopher Moore. $26.99 hardcover. 4/22/14 one day laydown.

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