Who wrote this book and wh – wait a minute. You’re not Sarah.
No, no I am not. You get +5 points for being observant and finding me out, though. And before I even wrote any of my overly-hyphenated prose, too!
Who are you, then, and why are you here?
Well, I made an agreement with Sarah. She’d write about her top ten films of 2006 and we’d post it on my blog. In return, I would give her a full on book review of her choice – she chose “Lamb.” The film list thing… never quite got finished, mostly because we got distracted by a little thing called Multiple Sclerosis. However, she DID write about all her favorite movies, and she DID send it to me to post. So, to fulfill my end of the deal (10 months later…) and because I’m planning on making her write about movies again at the end of this year, I’m finishing this review. So suck it up. She’ll be back with the next review.
Sarah got her degree in English. She’s written huge long papers on literary criticism. What are your credentials?
I uh… like to read? A lot? And I took like two or three Lit classes with Sarah in college… she always beat me in grades, though.
I’m not impressed.
Um… I’ve read Moby Dick twice?
That just shows you have bad taste.
I didn’t enjoy it either time, really.
That just shows you’re stupid, then, for reading it twice.
Yeah, good point. So… can we get on with this?
Fine. Who wrote this book and when?
Christopher Moore wrote this book in 2002. A new edition (that looks like a leather bound Bible, hilariously enough) is coming out this October. So hey – timely review, right? You know, because there’s a new edition, and because people might see it and go “That looks like an interesting book, I might buy it but I know nothing about it. If only someone would help me make an informed decision!”
I don’t think that’s likely.
Well, maybe. I mean, it might-
Has there been a film version?
Ha! No. This film will never, ever be made into a film. At least, that’s my guess.
Who are the important characters?
Levi bar Alphaeus (Biff) – The narrator, and Joshua’s best friend.
Joshua bar Joseph (Jesus) – Jesus, the Savior of all mankind and Biff’s best friend.
Mary the Magdalene (Maggie) – Childhood friend of Biff and Joshua’s, and the lifelong object of Biff’s affections. The affections are not exactly returned.
Raziel – The stupidest angel ever. Wants to be Spider-Man.
What’s it about?
The life of Christ. As you’ve never, ever heard it before.
Why is this book a classic/bestseller?
Because it’s an absurdist, hilarious, vulgar, and reverent retelling of the story of Christ.
“Vulgar?” “Hilarious?” “… Reverent?”
Do you recommend I read this book?
Yes, without hesitation. Unless you hate the film “Life of Brian.” Or think that no one should ever joke about the Bible or Jesus. Or have a problem with Jesus’ best friend trying to describe what sex is like to him. Or Jesus learning Kung Fu. Or – ok, that’s actually quite a bit of hesitation. If you’re likely to be offended, don’t waste your time. If you’re looking for an extremely interesting book written about the life of Christ by someone who’s not a Christian, this is a must-read.
Why did this book make your list?
I was glancing through the Christopher Moore shelf at the library, and Sarah made a comment about it. I (somewhat eagerly, I’m ashamed to admit) asked if it was really offensive, and she gave this little half laugh/smile and just said, “Read it for yourself.” So I did.
Has it won any awards?
None, that I’m aware of.
As we passed through the enormous courtyard, where thousands of men stood with lambs on their shoulders waiting to get into the inner temple, to the altar, to the slaughter, I could see no man’s face. I saw only the faces of the lambs, some calm and oblivious, others with their eyes rolled back, bleating in terror, still others seeming to be stunned. I swung the lamb from my own shoulders and cradled it in my arms like a child as I backed out toward the gate. I know my father and Joseph must have come after me, but I couldn’t see their faces, just emptiness where their eyes should have been, just the eyes of the lambs they carried. I couldn’t breathe, and I couldn’t get out of the Temple fast enough. I didn’t know where I was going, but I wasn’t going inside to the altar. I turned to run, but a hand caught my shirt and pulled me back. I spun around and looked into Joshua’s eyes.
“It’s God’s will,” he said. He laid his hands on my head and I was able to breathe again. “It’s all right, Biff. God’s will.” He smiled.
Joshua had put the lamb he’d been carrying on the ground, but it didn’t run away. I suppose I should have known right then.
“Being a shepherd seems easy. I went with Kaliel last week to tend his flock. The Law says that two must go with the flock to keep an abomination from happening. I can spot an abomination from fifty paces.”
Maggie smiled. “And did you prevent any abominations?”
“Oh yes, I kept all of the abominations at bay while Kaliel played with his favorite sheep behind the bushes.”
This is probably Christopher Moore’s best work to date. Not only is the book well written (it can often swing from utter hilarity to amazing insight, in the blink of a sentence), but it’s also well researched. Moore gets more things right about the Bible, Jesus, and Israel in general than any of the so-called “Christian” fiction I’ve read set in the same time period. It’s amazing, mostly because Moore has called himself a pagan in many of his interviews – yet here he’s cautious and reverent, and even “gets it.” The gospel message is present, loud and clear. Christ is born to a virgin, lives a life without sin, dies, and is resurrected – all so He can save mankind. True, the whole thing is smack dab in the middle of hilarity and crudeness, but he gets it. Here’s how he approached the book, in his own words:
“When I began writing the comic version of the gospels, I took a sort of Hippocratic oath to myself- that is: First, do no harm. I wanted to do this book without attacking anyone’s faith, and without questioning the spiritual precepts of Christ’s identity as set down in the New Testament. As far as LAMB would be concerned, Jesus was who the Bible says he was, so I had to color within those lines. To do otherwise would have been mean-spirited, which is the only thing I feel is off limits for humorous exploration. Once I had my narrator, it was all about research, about creating the world of first century Israel as accurately as I could, while exploiting the holes in history so I could tell the tale. The first part of the book takes place in Galilee, putting Biff and Josh in the midst of a very Tom Sawyer-style mystery (and I did model the mystery on that august Twain tome more than a little). The middle section takes the boys to the Orient in search of the three wise men who were present at Joshua’s birth. This becomes, essentially, a log of Joshua’s search for how to become the man who would save the world. He learns the spiritual disciplines of Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, and Hinduism, while his best pal Biff concentrates on chasing girls and learning the finer points of the Kama Sutra from an string of harlots. (I like to think of this section as Josh and Biffs Excellent Adventure) LAMB finishes up with a behind-the-scenes view of Joshua’s ministry and the events that transformed a poor kid from Galilee into the most influential human being ever to walk the Earth. (Think Butch and Sundance do Jerusalem.)”
Are you done yet?
Yes. I mean wait, no. Aren’t you supposed to ask me my personal thoughts?
Fine then. Personal thoughts?
If I had the chance to recommend either the film “The Passion of the Christ” or this book, I’d chose this book. No questions asked. Yes, Moore doesn’t quite get it perfect (namely, the concept of the Holy Spirit. He totally misses the point.) but he gets an amazingly large part of it right. Enough so that it made me think – in a good way. This is good, hilarious, and thought provoking stuff – that is, as long as you don’t get offended. Which is a pretty big caveat, I admit.