- Grossmith, George & Weedon — The Diary of a Nobody (166 pages)
- McCarthy, Cormac — Blood Meridian (334 pages)
- Moore, Alan & Dave Gibbons — Watchmen (399 pages)
- Moore, Christopher — Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal (507 pages)
Page count: 1406.
Anyone keeping score at home (ha!) would think that I am reading slightly under one book per month. While it does feel that way at times, it isn't the case. I've just been slow to log them.
The holiday season (which, in my calendar, runs from Thanksgiving in late November to Super Bowl Sunday in early February and includes my birthday in January) seemed to have a Christopher Moore theme this year. Joe talked to me incessantly about Moore's books. There were two in particular he recommended: Lamb and A Dirty Job, which is similar in many respects to Piers Anthony's On a Pale Horse. On Joe's recommendation, I bought Lamb as a Christmas gift for a friend. Then for my birthday Joe surprised me with a copy of Lamb. Of course, I wanted to read it, but, as I just reminded myself a few minutes ago when I plucked another book I want to read off my shelf, I want to read everything in that shelf or it wouldn't be in my shelf. Lamb would have gone into the queue if Joe weren't moving back to the States within a month. So, for that reason, Lamb jumped the queue.
And I was pleasantly surprised. I'll readily admit, I was nervous. Anytime a book or film or musical attempts to retell the story of Christ in some fashion, it risks giving offense, or worse. Certainly, this was the case with Michael Moorcock's Behold the Man, which I found crass and needlessly offensive. I wonder if I am party to some act of sacrilege or blasphemy when I engage with certain works, which is why my copy of Nikos Kazantzakis' The Last Temptation of Christ remained unopened on my bookshelf (and now packed in a box) in Massachusetts.
But I need not have been concerned with Lamb. Moore wants to tell an entertaining story and make you laugh, not offend. And there was nothing in Lamb that I felt could give offense to any but the most hypersensitive.
The premise is simple. The Gospels give an account of Christ's birth but only the sketchiest, most meagre details of anything that happened between then and the beginning of his public mission three decades later. So, Moore wondered, what happened in the interim? Did Joshua bar Joseph undergo some sort of special training that prepared him to be Messiah?
So, Moore has the Lord send an angel down to earth to resurrect Levi who is called Biff, Joshua's best friend who was mysteriously left out of all Gospel accounts. Levi is assigned the task of writing his own Gospel, which is done in most humorous fashion. We learn exactly what happened in those intervening years and, at the very end, why Biff was left out of the Gospels.
Lamb is surprisingly well researched for such a light-hearted comedy. In the Afterword, titled "Teaching Yoga to an Elephant," Moore explains the research he did, where intentional anachronisms were allowed for storytelling purposes, and how he was very careful to fit his story into the framework of the Gospels. And Lamb is incredibly funny, which I wouldn't expect from such a well-researched book. It was good for a few laugh-out-loud moments, one loud one of which drew nasty looks on the Tube. All in all, a very satisfying read.