Since I tend to avoid inciting arguments if possible, I never informed my last girlfriend that, besides Hamlet, her beloved Bard never struck any sort of chord with me, despite, or perhaps because of, my being an English major – fiction writing, to be exact – and, thus, supposedly indebted to him and his work, as are all writers. I played my part rather well, I think, mentioning my affinity for adaptations of his work – Akira Kurosawa’s Ran, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) – but never that they are, by and large, my preference. With Hamlet, even, I’d rather treat myself to the Kenneth Branagh directed adaptation, or this one, set inside a Piggly Wiggly supermarket and full of puns, than read it or attend a performance.
Taking one step further, I’m certain I never went off on a rant about how Romeo & Juliet is no more of a love story than Twilight, though I might have brought up that West Side Story (also a favorite of hers) made it a wee bit more palatable, thanks in large part to nixing the original ending in favor of one less ridiculous. Translation, there’s no poison or dagger to be found, and fewer warning signs of mental illness as a direct result. When I know more about a stranger I talked to for a couple minutes, culminating with him massaging my hands inside of a Dunkin Donuts, than Romeo and Juliet knew about one another, it’s no longer love we’re talking about. Unless you add the word “teenage” before it, thus invalidating it. Let me say this again; that creeper, who put me too on edge to nimbly extrication myself from the situation or realize he was overtly hitting on me, constitute a healthier couple than Romeo and Juliet. He didn’t thrust himself upon a dagger when I failed to contact him at the number he forcibly made me enter into my phone within seconds of our being introduced to one another. That would’ve made as little sense as Colin, from An Abundance of Katherines, stabbing himself with a pair of safety scissors when the very first Katherine dumped him moments after they became boyfriend and girlfriend.
I kept all this to myself, not wanting a repeat of that time I told a Star Warsfanatic, among other things, that my personal favorite was Attack of the Clones, sending him off on an ill-mannered rant. Sometimes, it’s best not to show your hand until someone else goes out of the way to make you do it. Why, then, am I telling you about it in excruciating detail, opening myself up to your collective scrutiny? I intend to use it to help background my stance onFool. Christopher Moore has experience with winning over skeptics – Lambinspired little public outcry from the Christian community, with more than a few able to get past their reservations and enjoy it – yet Fool is somehow his most polarizing work. English majors tend to keep to themselves… until someone dares fiddle around with Shakespeare. Moore anticipated this, which is why he appended Fool with a lengthy and sincere apology. That didn’t stop anyone from brandishing his inaccuracies like weapons against him, not understanding that he never meant for Fool to measure up to Shakespeare or, worse yet, to build upon his work. Having no loyalty to the Bard myself, Moore’s roasting of the man in Fool made me laugh like, well, a fool. He, Shakespeare that is, is not beyond reproach, and I’ll defend that opinion to anyone who says otherwise. For proof, I can hand over a copy of Fool and tell them that the answers lie within, seeing as Moore is a more accomplished, and cleverer, roaster than I could ever dream of becoming myself.
Like with Lamb, it’s mostly a matter of whether or not you’re willing to take a joke for what it is: a joke. Moore targets Frenchmen in Fool as well, but not out of any underlying resentment for the French people; he’s poking fun, and some people fail at separating one from the other. Moore is a lot of things; mean-spirited, though, is definitely not one of them. In a sense, he is Pocket, the fool referenced in the title. No one’s out of danger’s way when he starts slinging around barbs, a fact I think a person has to respect, much the same way as I respect Penn & Teller for having the gall to give the Vatican the Penn & Teller: Bullshit! treatment. The episode would never be re-aired or re-released in any form. They knew this going in, but it didn’t stop them in their pursuit towards enlightening their viewers, just as Moore isn’t about to let critics prevent him from writing whatever it is he wants to write. You can say he’s not funny, or that he’s more comedian than writer. Just, please, try to refrain from going beyond that and saying he’s a hack because you’re holding him to standards that he never hoped to reach himself.
Travis Smith’s blog, containing this review, as well as others, photography, and more, can be found here.