Lamb

51SN8AC6hULI’ve been meaning to read this forever and finally got around to moving it up on my list.  We all have those books we hear about that we just know we’ll like because of who recommended it to us or because of previous familiarity with the author or whatever.  This was one of those for me.  The problem was it came to my attention when I was in grad school and my reading was booked.  Then I’ve been in this great book club for many years, but they had read it before I joined.  So it was just a matter of finding the right time.  Luckily, last month I’d already read the book club book and I was ahead in some other reading projects so I FINALLY got around to it.

It’s funny, the guy who originally set up our book club (and has since moved) cited his love of humor fiction as one of the reasons for the club.  He felt like, given the choice, he’d read nothing but Tom Robbins and Christopher Moore and the like and wanted to break out of that rut.  But of course not only did he have the group read Lamb, but actually weaseled Mr. Moore’s publicists into setting up a meeting with the author.  So one month we read his then-newest book, A Dirty Job, and he visited our group at a local bookstore for the hour before his big Atlanta appearance.

That night our book club went from the usual six or seven members to about 30 or so.  But it could have been 1 or 100; Christopher Moore was just as relaxed and funny as I’m sure he always is.

So onto Lamb, probably his best and best known work of fiction.  The premise is an angel has resurrected Jesus of Nazarath’s childhood best friend to write another gospel because, as most everyone knows, while his birth and later life are chronicled in the New Testament, there’s a good thirty year gap.

The best friend is named Levi but everyone calls him Biff.  And no one knew Jesus as “Jesus” back then.  That’s a later translation from the Greek.  He says a closer translation would be Joshua, so it’s the story of Biff and Josh’s childhood to adulthood.

If you like the idea of a hilarious and yet still very touching riff on this time period that is implausible and, profane and wonderful then this is the book for you.  I haven’t had this much fun since Pratchett and Gaiman’s Good Omens.

But beyond the humor, there really is a quite touching story of friendship and love and loss and all of that.  They both love Mary the Magdalene.  She loves Joseph but can’t have him.  She loves Levi too, but the triangle has too much baggage to let them be together.  Plus, there’s the whole searching the land to figure out if he’s not only really the messiah, but what he should do and say as the messiah when he returns.

That’s probably my favorite part of the book.  He decides to seek out the three wise men who came to see his birth.  Each one teaches him not only different aspects of being the messiah, but different religious views he incorporates into his message. He learns about Lao Tzu, Confucianism, the Buddha, Hinduism and more.  They even learn some kung fu from some mountain monks but since he never wants to hit anyone they adapt it for him and the new version, which emphasizes using an opponent’s attacks against them, comes to be known as Jew Do (judo) because that’s the only kind of kung fu the two Jews will do.  This section of the novel gets more and more ridiculous.  Moore is clearly using the 30-year gap to full comedic advantage.  But it also makes a kind of sense that Joshua would have learned as much as he could from as many as he could since his Big Daddy never seemed to speak to him when asked.

Of course, in India when Joshua is learning from yogis in the mountains Biff heads into town to take private instruction in the Kama Sutra.  They have an Odd Couple type of friendship.  It comes in handy though when Joshua questions wise men about his message.  He says, “Tell me how you think I should relate that message.  And remember I’ll have to explain it to someone like Josh.”

A funny, human story for everyone.  Well, everyone with a sense of humor anyway.

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2 thoughts on “Lamb

  1. I was going to leave a comment on your post about comments typically happening in the first 14 days, but I’m too late. 😉

    I know that you’re right, and that I’m an unusual blog reader in that I stop by every couple of weeks and read a bunch of posts when I do, but I’m not afraid to comment about one thing even though I’m commenting on another post.

    I think it’s great that you all got the author to come and visit. My book club only did that once, but we all enjoyed it. I think it’s so difficult for us to come up with a date everyone can agree to that adding an author’s schedule to the mix just would not work.

    And how did you get a group of men to form a book club? I’m the only guy in mine ?

  2. We mostly meet the third Thursday of every month. So knowing ahead of time when we meet makes scheduling easier. As for Christopher Lamb, I’m sure we met whenever he happened to be here. Like I said, it was the night of his talk somewhere near Atlanta, GA and we got him to stop by for the hour or so before he had to go off and give his talk.

    As for the Guys Read book club, the name apparently started as a bit of a joke. There’s a children’s book shop in downtown Decatur, GA called The Little Shop of Stories, but they carry adult titles as well. They started up a few book clubs themselves and one of them, started by a woman, happened to have all guys show up at the first meeting so they named it the “Guys Read” book club. She got busy with other projects and handed it off to one of the Guys.

    When I joined they were meeting at the books shop, but when they moved locations the new set up wasn’t as conducive to group meetings and the numbers of members dwindled. One evening it was just me and the leader. In disgust, he said we should have out meeting at the pub next door. Then that became a new tradition, meeting at the book shop, then heading to the pub. Now we mostly just meet at a pub, though the book shop still advertises the group and we are encouraged to buy our discounted print copies there.

    Membership has steadily increased and now it varies from 8-16 Guys. I think there are a number of reasons we’ve been successful. First. it’s open to any guy that comes across the club through their newsletter or store display. Obviously most of the Guys are dads but not exclusively. Some are brought in by friends. There’s also no pressure. You don’t feel as though you have to go every time. You don’t feel as if you absolutely have to read every book every time. Having it a a pub helps (and we switch up the location periodically).

    I think the traditional book club meets at member’s houses and there is an exclusiveness to them. Someone also brought in an article from a magazine about an all -male book club once. It was horrifying. It was a bunch of cigar-smoking, sports-loving, business types who read all manly men books. We decided right there that we would never accept any interviews or publicity about our group.

    The other thing I like about it is that we read a lot of different kinds of things. Sure, some of them are “guy” books but there’s short stories, poetry, humor, literary fiction, classics, the occasional graphic novel, nonfiction, etc. The only two rules are a book pick has to be in paperback and it can’t have been an Oprah pick.

    If you ever make it to Atlanta, you are more than welcome to join us!

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