Monday, January 24, 2011

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore; A review

More than 2000 years after the death of Jesus of Nazareth, the angel Raziel is sent to ressurect his childhood friend, Biff, from the dust of Jerusalem. After Biff has returned to human form and has retrieved the "30 pieces of silver" that had bought Judas' betrayal, the angel and he sell the silver on the Jerusalem antiquities market for $20,000. With the money and Biff's newly acquired gift of tongues, they head out to America, where they land in a hotel in St. Louis. There, Biff will be required to write his gospel - the story of his life with Jesus (Joshua bar Joseph, in this telling), particularly the missing years between Joshua's debating with the rabbis at the temple when he is twelve and the beginning of his ministry when he is about thirty-years-old.

In Biff's telling (in American vernacular English, courtesy of that gift of tongues), those were adventure-packed years that took him and Joshua to the East in search of the three Wise Men who had attended Joshua's birth. From each of the Wise Men, Joshua learns important things that he will incorporate in his teachings when he begins his ministry. At this point, he KNOWS he is the Son of God and that he is supposed to do something big, he just isn't entirely sure what it is.

As Joshua learns eternal truths, Biff learns all about sinning and invents sarcasm, a tool which he uses freely in his gospel. Even though we know how the whole thing is going to end, it is hard not to laugh out loud at Biff's very human experiences and reactions.

Here, I must stop and admit to another gap in my literary knowledge. I was not familiar with Christopher Moore and his absurdist novels, and I probably never would have been had not my daughter, the librarian, suggested this book to me. It is unlikely that I would ever have discovered him on my own, absurdism not being a genre into which I regularly dip in my reading. This is why it is so useful to have someone around who will broaden your literary horizons!

Moore is a very good writer. Although this book is clearly a work of his warped imagination, it is also obvious that he has done a good bit of research about the time and the places that he is writing about. While I'm certainly no expert, the social milieu, the politics of the time, and the landscapes through which the two friends travel all rang true for me.

This would not be an appropriate book for a Christian fundamentalist without a sense of humor, but for anyone who appreciates satire and is not offended by its use to skewer religious absurdities, Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal can be a diverting and laugh-out-loud funny read.

3 comments:

  1. I love it when you come upon some new reading material that opens up a new interest. I will have to check out this work. Last year I stumbled across the Alexander McCall Smith's " No. 1 Ladies Detective Ageny" series and began listening to them on my morning walks. There are 12-13 books in the series and I loved them! Though I am usually a reader I really enjoyed the audio version of these books. The characters became my morning company, and yes I know this is odd, but I have missed them!!! His next book in the series is due in March. They are not heavy literature but are uplifting! If you haven't read one I think you may find them enjoyable.

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  2. I have read them all, Anonymous! I love Alexander McCall Smith's Precious Ramotswe series. He has a couple of other series going, too, one that I am currently reading featuring a character called Isabel Dalhousie and set in Edinburgh. It's interesting but even slower-paced and more given to philosophical inner dialogues than the one with Precious. But these gentle stories are sometimes just what we need to restore our faith in humanity.

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  3. As I wrote that I was sure you would enjoy them! So glad to know you already have! It's odd how calming I find his words or should I say works. Will have to indulge in this other series!

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