It’s a testament to how far behind I am on my blogging right now that I had to look in my 2016 reading list on the blog to remind myself which book I read after Ripper. And when I saw that The Serpent of Venice was the next book I had finished, I was so happy. I love Christopher Moore, and have read quite a few of his books. I doubt I’ll be able to do this book justice, especially because I’m really out of practice, but I’ll try.
The Serpent of Venice is a sequel to Fool, which came out back in 2010, and is an homage to Shakespeare, albeit an irreverent one. Loosely based on King Lear, the main character is Pocket, the Fool, and there are also references to Macbeth, amongst other plays. At the end, Pocket married Cordelia, Lear’s youngest daughter. The Serpent of Venice opens after Cordelia is killed while Pocket is acting as her emissary in Venice. This new book combines The Merchant of Venice (of course), Othello, and Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado.” I enjoyed this book so much more than Fool, which made me glad, because I was actually disappointed in Fool, and that had never happened to me with a Christopher Moore book before. I think the reason why I enjoyed the newer one more is because Moore does such a good job of weaving the source material together into one (fairly) cohesive narrative, albeit an absurd one.
And what is the gist of this narrative, you ask? Well, it starts when some Venetians brick Pocket into a wall in one of their basements by tempting him down there with a cask of Amontillado. He is rescued by a creature who has weird reptilian sex with him (hey, it’s still a Christopher Moore book) and then starts killing his enemies. While Pocket is trapped in the wall, we learn that he made friends with Othello and helped set him up with the lovely Desdemona. When he escapes from the wall he hides out in the Jewish district of Venice and makes friends with Shylock’s daughter, Jessica. Honestly I read this one back in July so my memories of all the plot details are getting pretty dim, so I’m going to keep it brief. Suffice it to say that Moore does a great job of intertwining Othello and The Merchant of Venice, but not so well that it isn’t a bit ridiculous (but that’s the whole point of reading his books—to experience the ridiculous). The “The Cask of Amontillado” section is brief, and is only makes up the first maybe twenty pages, though that part of the novel gives us a reason why the serpent of the title is loyal to Pocket, and why she is responsible for causing many of the deaths from the plays that are the major source material.
I’m not going to toil on this blog for any longer—the longer it takes me to write, the less I remember about this book. It’s too bad, too, because it was hilarious. I’m not sure that it would be as enjoyable if you are not simultaneously a lover of Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe, and Christopher Moore’s unique brand of irreverent, yet completely respectful to the folks he’s poking fun at, humor. Fortunately for me, I love all three of these fellows, so The Serpent of Venice was completely in my wheelhouse. I keep trying to make up my mind if I think Bethany would like it, and I think she would, though maybe The Fool from Hamlet’s affair with Jessica from The Merchant of Venice might be a bit too much for her. But you know what? After I typed that out I decided Bethany would love that part. It’s just so absurd. Actually, I’m calling a spontaneous reading challenge on Bethany: I want you to read a Christopher Moore book sometime! (Sidebar: Bethany, I think we should do this all the time!!) And with that most absurd breaking of the blogging fourth wall ever, I’ll say goodnight. If you enjoy good-hearted mockery of classic literature, this book is for you.