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Friday, May 19, 2006

BOOK BLOG: Eloisa Talks About Death. Sort of!

The book is by Christopher Moore, and it's called A Dirty Job. The job is: Death. Sounds grims, no? It's one of the funniest books I've read in ages. I actually found myself giggling out loud at several points. The story is pretty simple (if crazy). Charlie Asher is a normal, neurotic guy whose wife just had a baby. She shooes him out of the hospital room to go home and get some sleep; he comes back suddenly and finds a tall man standing next to his wife...who turns out to have just died. And before Charlie knows it, he ends up with the job of a death merchant, just like the tall guy standing at his wife's bedside.

You all know I hate tear-jerkers, so I assure you that even though the situation sounds like one, it isn't. If I tell you that his wife's soul wanders through the book, because it was transported into a Sarah McLachlan CD, do you see why the reader laughs instead of cries?

The book's brilliance is not just in all the fantastic details of Charlie's new job as death (when someone dies, he has to go pick up their soul...which might be in a CD, or in a vase, or in one unique case, a pair of fake breasts), nor the presence of the three Morrigan sisters in the sewers of San Francisco (they're from medieval mythology), nor the fantastic bits of Tibetan lore about death that weave through the book.

What is insanely, hysterically funny is Christopher Moore's way of talking about Charlie and, frankly, Charlie himself. I think the best way to illustrate it is just to quote some. For example, Charlie is a Beta Male. Moore spends a good deal of time describing Beta Males, and I loved every bit of it -- at least partially because my imagination is so taken up with describing Alpha Males. Alpha Males are out charging after mastodons, as Moore points out. I could have told him that later versions of the same spend a lot of time stalking around Regency London wishing a mastodon or two would come by and make their day.

But Beta Males "could imagine in advance that attacking what was essentially an angry, woolly bulldozer with a pointy stick might be a losing proposition, so they hung back at camp to console the grieving widows." Every bit of sarcastic humor like this has a thread of trueness that keeps your laughter a bit rueful.

And one final detail, just for romance readers: there's a romance. A happy ending. I love that!

Do NOT miss this book! Apparently Christopher Moore has written a bunch of other books, so this is the first I've read. Anyone out there read any of his other books? Are they all this good?
Eloisa James, 9:03 PM