Fool is Christopher Moore’s retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear, which I’ve never seen or read. I know just a little bit of it to get by, but this isn’t really a problem when reading Moore’s version. He takes the tragedy and turns it merrily on its head. The story is told from the perspective of the Black Fool, and is set roughly in the Middle Ages.
Pocket has spent years serving as the Fool in King Lear’s court. His companions include his wisecracking puppet Jones and his bungling, lovable, well-hung apprentice Drool. (There is much mention of people’s nasty bits in this tale.)
Lear freaks out about his mortality and decides to split his kingdom equally among his three daughters: the eldest Goneril (a name sounding like a certain venereal disease does not escape Moore), the shaggalicious Regan, and the pure, lovely Cordelia. Like in the original, each of the princesses has to first declare their love for their father in a most flattering, flowery manner before they get their piece of the land. Goneril and Regan say exactly what the king wants to hear, but this doesn’t fly with Cordelia. She answers, “Nothing.” Of course, Lear, who is actually going nuts, banishes her. The prince of France marries her despite the lack of a dowry and takes her away to his country. The two older sisters each get half of Britain.
The Fool is dismayed as he watches his liege descend slowly into madness. Even more distressing is the loss of his Cordelia. He is spurred into action, and we are led along a thick plot of intrigue, bonking, priceless banter, swashbuckling action, horny witches, and cryptic ghosts (There’s always a bloody ghost.)
Fool is Moore’s love letter to British comedy, and it is quite a declaration he has made. There are racey bits that would make even the most bawdy blush; turns of phrase to elicit loud, uncouth (it is very difficult to be couth with this book) guffaws; and verbal exchanges so sharp they could prick your bonnie bottom. This is debauchery at its finest.
Fool is not for the faint of heart. An ample warning at the beginning says as much:“This is a bawdy tale. Herein you will find gratuitous shagging, murder, spanking, maiming, treason, and heretofore unexplored heights of vulgarity and profanity, as well as non-traditional grammar, split infinitives and the odd wank. If that sort of thing offends you, then gentle reader pass by, for we endeavor only to entertain, not to offend. That said, if that’s the sort of thing you think you might enjoy, then you have happened upon the perfect story!”
Amidst all the craziness, we have steady points to hold on to, such as the loyal and morally staunch nobleman Kent; and the Fool himself, whose wit and verve give this book much of its punch. I didn’t expect it, but the story also put me in mind of the high fantasy novels I read when I was younger. It felt good to be back in that world of castles and noblemen, royal conspiracies and scheming bastards (literal and otherwise).
“And fuckery? Will there be fuckery, Pocket?”
“Heinous fuckery most foul, lad. Heinous fuckery most foul.”
This was a post by Kubi, who thinks Christopher Moore is the dog’s bollocks.