In "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead," Tom Stoppard had the clever idea of retelling "Hamlet" from the point of view of two of its minor characters. Even before that, James Thurber addressed the problem of "The Macbeth Murder Mystery," treating Shakespeare's Scottish tragedy as if it were an Agatha Christie whodunit. It turns out that Macbeth and his good lady were falsely blamed for the death of King Duncan, the real murderer being absolutely the least likely character. Similarly, the 1950s film "Forbidden Planet" gave a science-fiction twist to "The Tempest," even as the musical "West Side Story" copied and updated the plot of "Romeo and Juliet."
As the king of dramatists, Shakespeare has long invited every form of pastiche, parody and general lèse-majesté. But to turn the darkly depressing "King Lear" into a comedy requires more than ordinary chutzpah. Who better to give it a try than Christopher Moore, author of the famously outrageous and funny "Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal"? As Moore's prefatorial "Warning" to "Fool" explicitly states, the result is "a bawdy tale." Very bawdy. We're talking country matters here, the beast with two backs, coxcombs and poxes, scullions and cullions, all the most intimate body fluids and exudations.
In truth, "Fool" is exuberantly, tirelessly, brazenly profane, vulgar, crude, sexist, blasphemous and obscene. To quote carelessly from "Fool" would strain the forbearance of this family newspaper. Virtually every woman in this novel — from the cook and the laundress to a holy anchoress and three witches — demonstrates what Moore calls, in one of his rare euphemisms, "a generous spirit in the dark." Our narrator and hero is Pocket, King Lear's jester or fool, who is a young man of multiple talents: He can forge letters, throw knives with deadly accuracy and, most of important all, make the melancholy Cordelia laugh. He even boasts an apprentice named Drool, a man-mountain of limited intelligence but spaniel-like loyalty.
Causes Christopher Moore Supports
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