Friday, 13 June 2014

The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore

They waited at the dock, the three Venetians, for the fool to arrive.

There is a preface that explains what the setting of this book is. I skipped most of it after reading the first part of the first line: ...mythical late-thirteenth-century Italy. Because it's mythical, I will myth it out in my head without author aids. The rest reads like a data crammed wiki article about politics...or some such thing.

Then we have a sepia-toned antique map of Italy and then Act 1 which has some poem that's yelled out by a chorus of people like in ancient Greek theater. I skip that to. After the first line,  Rise, Muse! I think I've had enough. If the chapter 1 opening hooks me and I'm pulled into this novel against my will, then I can always go back and read that stuff.

The design of the book might hook some people, though one should never judge a book by its cover or it  blue-stained page edges. Is this a gimmick, or an expression of the soul?

Now, to the above opening line. Here it is again:

They waited at the dock, the three Venetians, for the fool to arrive.

Despite the pronounology this line does whet my curiosity with the mention that these three men are waiting for a fool. I like fools; fools hook me. I like reading about them; I like picking them out of crowds, which is to say I enjoy fool watching; I like staring at them; and I like laughing at them and making fun of them. There's nothing like a good fool to make us feel good about ourselves and believe that the world according to us makes sense.

First thing said:

"An hour after sunset, I told him."

This is the beginning of the second paragraph in the book, so it's encouraging that dialogue begins so soon and that something is said that further develops the conflict of three men waiting for a fool that is apparently late.

The dialogue has a tint of the Shakespearean to it, so you've been warned - but not enough to give you a headache or make you feel like you're in a foreign country or visiting a Brooklyn crack house. As these three men wait, they talk about the situation so the reader can begin caring about this scene and just to make sure a monkey is thrown into the conversation. Nevertheless, I sense my attention wandering. On the next page the fool arrives and this book begins to read more like a play being performed by university students who believe in the liberal, bleeding heart myth, before graduating and inevitably joining the polluting world of business and consumerism whereupon they move to the Republican suburbia to eke out a mediocre existence until they're claimed by God and cancer.

Verdict: Pass (barely)

Rudy Globird

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