Friday, April 25, 2014

Christopher Moore's New Novel, "The Serpent of Venice" is a Lush Temptress, at Least On the Outside,

Needless to say, with Christopher Moore's newest novel, The Serpent of Venice, coming out this week, we've been obsessing over the new book and Christopher Moore in general, particularly as he is returning to Boswell on May 1. The last novel, Sacré Bleu, reached new levels of lusciousness with its packaging. Printed with the magic blue ink of the French Impressionists, it was also filled with full-color art plates. But I should note, the paperback edition is an ordinary paperback.

The new novel, The Serpent of Venice, is equally lush, even without the color plates. This time William Morrow did Venetian endpapers and a full blue stain around the edges; the black text is accompanied by red highlights for chapter headings, serpent decoration, and the words of the chorus. I can imagine a sticker on the cover of the book saying "words of the chorus in red" the way you sometimes see on Bibles. A number of folks said to me, "I wasn't going to buy a copy of the new book but that book's packaging changed my mind. Why aren't more publishers doing this? The publishers tell us that if the book is reprinted, it won't come with all the bells and whistles.

Moore's latest is just as much fun on the inside. Most of the Moore groupies I know went back and read (or in several cases, reread) Fool, Moore's first book that featured Pocket of Dog Snogging, the "fool" of the title. In that book, Fool was a bystander to the King Lear story. This time Pocket comes to Venice, and the story winds up being a mashup of The Merchant of Venice and Othello, with a bit of Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" thrown in for good measure. No matter that it's not quite the right century for those tales--it's all fiction anyway.

While I did my typical "don't have time to read Fool dance so I'm just going to jump into the new book blindly" dance, the folks who read both say that while Fool is all jokes, there's more plot to The Serpent of Venice. One doesn't always think of a writer of such ribaldry as maturing, but Jason was mentioning that Moore's later work really has evolved. There's surely a lot more research too.

You see, Jeff and Drool have been imprisoned, and Pocket has to free them, but he becomes entwined in the various Shakespearean plots, a bit jumbled of course. There's the plan to steal Shylock's money. There's the plan to discredit Othello. And yes, there's also Viv, the sea serpent, who may have been brought back to Venice by none other than Marco Polo, who of course (how could he not be?) is another player in the story.

We did a little Facebook advertising, so if you see a pitch to buy tickets for our event with a lot of exclamation points, but with the exclamation points used in a dry pitchman kind of way, that's us. Several Moore readers got together and tried to come up with writers whose fan bases overlapped. I did my old standby, Terry Pratchett. Mel suggested Chuck Palahniuk.  We argued out Tom Robbins. I always thought Coyote Blue was Moore's most Robbins-esque, but there was disagreement. William Morrow put a Carl Hiaasen quote on the jacket, so we went with him. And then we let our online competitor suggest one--it came up with Tim Dorsey, whom we never would have done on our own.

Who would you have suggested? Or is Christopher Moore in a class by himself?

This time our event is ticketed, mostly because we started getting close to capacity levels last time, and I noticed that a lot of folks have been ticketing his events. Barnes and Noble does a wristband, so you can get in, but you must buy a book from B&N to get in line. We've got $20 a gift card option, for those who have the book already. We certainly don't ticket every event, even the big ones, such as Deborah Harkness, who is coming on August 4. In that case, you'll want to come at least an hour early. The nice thing about ticketed events is that we put out seats for everyone who pre-buys. For free events, there are less tickets, more standing room. It's a trade off.

Our ticket is $28, which includes not just sales tax, but our ticketing service fee as well. We have priced the ticket to be 51 cents cheaper than the book would cost itself at our event. And yes, you can still bring your backlist from home, though we should have all his books available, at least if you come early and we haven't sold out. Feel free to call or email and put what you need on hold. 

One thing I know for sure is that when a half-decent adaption (I think the limited-edition cable run is probably the perfect format, and advances in CGI have made the books far more adaptable on a reasonable budget) gets made of any of Christopher Moore's books, the question of ticketing or free in store will be academic. We'll either have to have a ticketed event offsite, or a signing in the store, with the line stretching Donald Driver-like around the block. Or even more likely, he won't have time to do second-string cities like Milwaukee. So don't take Moore's continued appearances (this is his third at Boswell, his fifth in Milwaukee for granted. One day you'll have to wait five hours for him at a comic convention and you'll remember this intimate gathering of 300-some souls with fondness.

Don't live in Milwaukee? The Kopps custard flavor forecast* isn't tempting enough reason to plan a last-minute trip? Here's the rest of his tour.

But really, you should come to Milwaukee. The snow has melted. And yes, right now we have a mini-play to be performed beforehand by Theatre Gigante. It turns out that one of their upcoming productions is a new take on Othello.

 *You laugh, but our pitch for the Tom Robbins memoir involved getting Kopps, if not another custard stand, to come up with a Tibetan Peach Pie flavor for the event. It didn't happen, even though Robbins supposedly loves Kopps.

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