When I told my friend Jenna that I couldn’t wait to read for leisure this summer she immediately planned three books that I had to read from her own collection. Two of them are by Tamora Pierce (a writer we both have loved since our teenage years) and were pleasant quick reads after the trying semester of EIGHTEEN challenging books. The third sat on my shelf for a bit until I finished a couple graphic novels and Dorian Gray. I first saw this book on a shelf in my former boss’s office and flipped through the opening chapter on a brief break from actual work. It seemed offensive and sacrilegious and I don’t think it was time for me to read it then.
Jenna gave it to me saying that it was hilarious and that I would enjoy it. I’ll be honest, even though I feel I’m a bit more mature and willing to hear new ideas than I was when I originally saw the book I still felt some trepidation as I began reading. For those unfamiliar it’s a bit along the same lines as The Life of Brian though most likely less offensive. (I can’t speak categorically because I only made it through the first 20 minutes of TLOB whereas I finished this novel).
And I chuckled. A lot.
There’s a lot of wonderful subtle humour. The narrator, Levi, who is called Biff, claims that he created sarcasm, the original “two Jews walk into a bar” joke, and Judo (which was spelled a little differently, you can imagine). Overall, I enjoyed it. I’m not sure about the theological concern with imagining Jesus’s life as between his birth and recorded ministry (not counting that whole temple thing when he was 12). And for me, someone who has grown up with stories of Jesus my whole life, it was weird to see the story imagined through a different set of ideas.
It’s definitely an exercise in imagination. The narration and storytelling remind the reader that the world was a big place when Jesus was walking around. And the people around him were very real. Biff provides some humour and humanity to a story that sometimes just feels difficult. And I think Christopher Moore just had fun. Imagining Jesus attempting to teach an elephant yoga or learning kung fu (though anachronistic) are just fun things, and I don’t think they do any harm to one’s concept of Jesus as God’s Son.
There are some things that I could’ve done without. But that’s true about most books, movies, and music that I’ve encountered. It’s preference, eh? Anyway, if you know things about Jesus, or don’t, it will serve as a great conversation piece for someone else who does/doesn’t. I’d suggest shooting for the opposite though. Especially if you don’t know that there are no books in the Bible named Dalmatians or Amphibians.
I give it out of 5 for entertainment. And as Moore is a modern author I consider it a good out of 5 for instructional writing. It features fast paced humour, creative story telling, and witty dialogue and a warm/fuzzy ending that makes you feel like God is really interested in us down here.
Next on the list:
Maus I & II by Art Spiegelman
And the rest of the waiting stack, in no particular order, and not complete:
Palo Alto: Stories by James Franco (yeah, that guy!)
All the Sad Young Literary Men by Keith Gessen
A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy