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Monday, January 4, 2010

Lamb: The Unauthorized Biography of Jesus Christ

No doubt a sarcastic, occasional-F-bomb-dropping rendition of Jesus may tick off more than a few religious folk, but if you're not of that persuasion, then Lamb, by Christopher Moore is a whole damn (and possibly damning?) lot of fun! All you have to do is read the novel's subtitle — The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal — to understand that this is satire of the richest variety.

The hinge for the plot of the book (again, written by the rather vulgar, dimwitted Biff) is that Jesus knows he's the Messiah, but has no clue how to be a Messiah. So, just short of his teenage years, he decides to travel with his buddy Biff to find the three wise men who were in attendance at his birth to see if they can clue him in. Each wise man — Balthasar, Gaspar and Melchior — represents a different religious tradition (mysticism, Buddhism and Hinduism), and Jesus learns everything from how to multiply food to the idea of the Divine Spark, which he and Biff re-brand as the Holy Ghost. 

But the real genius of this book is its humor; a delicious mixture of slapstick, wordplay, and inside joke (thank goodness for those 12 years of Catholic education!).  As one example, Biff spends the better part of two weeks sexing prostitutes as a "favor" to the Christ, so he can better understand the sin of lust. "Thanks for sinning for me, Biff," he says. Or, consider that the "real" reason that bunnies are associated with Easter is that Jesus gets hammered at the Cana wedding (you know, the one where he changes water to wine) and is drunkenly fascinated by the cuteness of a nearby bunny. They're so cute, he wants them around anytime anything bad happens to him, he says.  Finally, here's one of the many silly forehead-slappers: The "H" in Jesus H. Christ stands for "Hallowed" because "....hallowed be thy name," we pray.

My only complaint about the book is that it's about 100 pages too long. There is a rather pronounced tone shift in the last quarter of the book, as Biff begins to relate the actual New Testament events of Jesus' public ministry and the crucifixion. It's almost touching in spots, and doesn't really fit with the rest of the book. I wish Moore had just stuck to the "unchronicled" part of Jesus' life, and concluded with Biff and Jesus returning from their journey.

Still, on the whole, this was a great read — lots and lots of fun. Have you read Lamb?  What were your impressions? Any favorite humorous moments?

13 comments:

  1. Christopher Moore+Jesus-religious integrity=win

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  2. I adore Christopher Moore. Glad you enjoyed the book!

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  3. I've read one Moore book and loved it~ I'm planning to read Lamb in 2010 as part of the World Religions Challenge.

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  4. This sounds kind of awesome. I'm definitely going to check it out.

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  5. as a good catholic girl i feel it is my duty to give this one a read. a jesus who swears is my kind of messiah. it's on my TBR list.

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  6. I LOVE Christopher Moore. This was actually the first book I read by him, and I thought it was just awesome. I do vaguely remember feeling at the end that it was maybe just a tad too long, but on the whole it was just fabulous and fabulously funny.
    I've also loved all of his other books that I've read. I received Confessions of a Sequined Love Nun for Christmas, which I am incredibly psyched about!

    It's weird, though - I passed Lamb along to my boyfriend to read a couple years ago, and he HATED it. He didn't find it funny at all. I really don't get how not.

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  7. I haven't read it - but now I absolutely have to! Thanks for bringing this book to my attention :)

    Also - nearly 100 followers (you have 99 as I write) how awesome is that? Richly deserved, your blog rocks.

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  8. @brizmus - Wow, he didn't find it funny at all? Did he "get" it? ;)

    @Kathmeista - Thanks for the kind words! I really enjoy your comments, and you blog, as well - I've been meaning to throw together some coherent thoughts about your "shape of words" post, and can't come up with anything nearly as intelligent or interesting as what you wrote. ;)

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  9. Greg, This looks like one I might have to check out!! I haven't read anything by Christopher Moore but I do enjoy a book that makes you laugh so this is going on my TBR list right now. Your review was flashing scenes of Monty Python's Life of Brian in my head. Now I am humming "Look on the Bright Side of Life". :)

    Lauren
    geebsbookclub.blogspot.com

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  10. I love this book. I have read it twice and would read it again. I have t disagree about the ending. I felt after the hilarity the "truth" of what Jesus had to go through was all that more touching. Reading this book was the first time I felt bad for the messiah. I almost cried the first time I read it; Moore's Jesus was very real and very human.

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  11. @SariJ - That's true, but the whole rest of the novel was soooo ridiculous, and sooooo slapstick, that all the while Moore was trying to make Jesus real, I was still expecting his signature moments of silliness. It was MORE unexpected that he stayed serious - and that sort of rang false for me....

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  12. Thanks for the review - I have looked at his books often but haven't read one yet. I will definitely put this on my TBR.

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  13. What I liked about this book was that it tied together Christianity with other religious and philosophical traditions. This is up there on my all-time favorites list, and it is a book I give to friends. Plus, it's downright funny, but I agree with you about it being a bit too long.

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