Friday, March 10, 2006

A Book That Is Hard To Categorize – Mini-Review of “Lamb” by Christopher Moore

A few weeks ago, in anticipation of going to see Les Miserables on stage (see Blog posting for February 27 -,
Jason Henrichs and his fiancée, Inga, hosted a gathering of about a dozen friends. During that evening, I led and facilitated a discussion of the spiritual underpinnings of the Les Miserables story. At the end of the evening, Inga and Jason surprised and delighted me with the gift of a book – a book I had never heard of before. The gift that he and Inga proffered was “Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal” by Christopher Moore.

I am not often at a loss for words, but I had to struggle to figure out how best to describe this novel. So, here we go . . .

Take one part “Life of Brian,” one part “Confederacy of Dunces,” one part Tom Robbins’ zany “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues,” throw in a dash of “Portnoy’ s Complaint,” and you might just began to imagine the zesty flavor of this “Lamb.” I have never read Moore before now, but it is clear that he is a master of the outrageous, hilarious imaginative and profane. I am quite certain that most of my theologically conservative friends would find this book offensive because of the language that Moore places in the mouths of his characters. In my very subjective opinion, he often teeters on the edge of the precipice of blasphemy without ever plunging into that abyss. This tongue-in-cheek romp through the life of Jesus – as told through the eyes of his fictional best boyhood friend, Levi (“Call me Biff”) is a study in contrasts. On the one hand, it is outrageous, sacrilegious, and ribald. On the other hand, it is strangely respectful, awe-filled, poignant and sweet.

Moore gives strong hints at what was fueling his desire to write such a book – in his epigraphs, Author’s Blessing and Afterword.

“God is a comedian playing to an audience that is afraid to laugh.” Voltaire

Author’s Blessing

If you have come to these pages for laughter, may you find it.
If you are here to be offended, may your ire rise and your blood boil.
If you seek an adventure, may this story sing you away to blissful escape.
If you need to test or confirm your beliefs, may you reach comfortable conclusions.
All books reveal perfection, by what they are or what they are not.
May you find that which you seek, in these pages or outside them.
May you find perfection, and know it by name.

And these revealing words from the Afterward:

“Theologically, I made certain assumptions about who Jesus was, mainly that he was who the Gospels say he was.” (Page 441)

For me, the real revelation of this novel was that it forced me to confront a story that I grew up with – the story of Jesus' life and death, and to think about it in a whole new light. It forced me out of the “Sunday School mentality” that many of us bring to envisioning the life of Christ – a sanitized, Ozzie and Harriet, Partridge Family view of life in first century Galilee. This recasting and retelling of the story had the effect of making me want to go back and re-read the Gospels through grittier and earthier lenses. If the reading of “Lamb” leads others to read the Gospels – again or for the first time – then it will have served a very useful purpose.

“So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)

Thank you, Christopher Moore, for making me laugh and think

Thank you, Inga and Jason, for your thoughtful gift.



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