September 6, 2012

The Last Book I Loved

Well now. It’s been a few months since I’ve posted here. I haven’t even written the final follow up for my challenge that ended back in May. In short, I am an abysmal blogger. But, even so, I’m choosing to blog on, and since I don’t have time to write anything at the moment, I thought I’d share something I’ve already written.

A few months ago, my friend Bill suggested that we both submit pieces to The Rumpus for a series they were doing called The Last Book I Loved. I wrote a little something and submitted it only to be swiftly (but encouragingly) rejected. Since I can’t think of another home for a piece like this, I thought I’d share it here.

So here I am, sharing it.

_____________

Making my home in the Bible Belt as I do, I fear perhaps I’ll hear a twang of guilt deep in my ear as I declare that the last book I loved was Lamb by Christopher Moore. I don’t hear one though, not even a fading vibration. All I hear is keys clicking as I type.

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal is, as you would expect, a tale of Jesus’s life related to us by one who walked with him. But what makes Biff’s gospel stand out is that an angel of God holes him up in a cheap motel room and forces him to write it right before our eyes. Also, Biff knows Jesus better than those other guys. He’s no mere disciple. He’s the lifelong friend, the brother from another mother, the wise-cracking sidekick with heart. And through Biff, we finally learn what happens during the missing years–after Jesus visits Jerusalem as a child and before he begins the final stretch that ends on Easter. These are the years when Jesus and Biff travel east seeking the path and find plenty of, umm, opportunity alongside it.

So, here goes. I love Lamb because it slaps three buttons. One, Biff is the real deal, as far as protagonists go. Two, the story makes me laugh every second minute and it makes my heart hurt, in equal measure. Three, Biff’s words unfold a tale I learned by heart many years ago in a way I could never have expected.

I love Biff not only because he’s smart and naughty, but because he represents. He’s a skeptical believer like me. I’m a Christian, albeit an exceedingly liberal one, which doesn’t count if you ask some people. Yet I’ve never believed with zeal. I make a willful choice toward broad belief, despite myself, more because of hope and love than certainty. Biff goes along with Joshua, begrudgingly and against his judgment, because he loves Joshua. (By the way, Joshua is the name Jesus uses in the book.) It’s simple. Biff’s faith is made of nothing but love for a friend, yet it’s the strongest thing in the book, other than Joshua’s will, and the most poignant. Plus, Biff scores a lot and discovers all sorts of important stuff like gravity and evolution. And he invents sarcasm. So, you know, he’s something else.

How shall I discuss the humor of this book and the pathos? Much of the humor is pure raunch, which, while it rarely offends me, often annoys when delivered poorly or in the wrong spot. I have no problem laughing at Lamb, however, which is extraordinary considering that the life of Christ seems the exact inappropriate spot to insert lewdness. Perhaps the humor works because it isn’t meant to demean or shock. It’s there because the characters really are horny, funny boys–boys I might have kissed in school (had I gotten out more). Then I turn the page, and Biff’s giant heart presses on my tear ducts. He’s a child carrying a lamb for sacrifice at Passover. He’s carried it all the way through the temple, but in the end, he can’t do it. He can’t betray the ignorant animal. He turns to his father for rescue, ashamed, and now I see that he is real. A person with a bleeding heart. A friend.

And it helps to hear the gospel from a friend–not that Lamb means to help me hear Jesus the way some churches hope I’ll hear Jesus. Praise the Lord. But, even so, Lamb raises the tale around me–of the carpenter’s son, awaited messenger of salvation–fleshes it up with funny, tormented, hopeful, and heartsick people whom I see more clearly now that they’ve been separated from their verses on the onion skin. Magnificent fiction, outright and with fearless pretense, Lamb’s reach is real.

So, I hope you understand why I love Lamb by Christopher Moore. If you don’t, I’m sorry for your time wasted and wish you luck in the future. If you do get it, though–why I love the book–then maybe you’ll stop reading this and start reading Lamb for yourself.

Anyway, I’m done now, so you can’t keep reading here.

______________

I wrote another post about Lamb last year during my Year of Reading at Your Mercy. I should probably stop talking about it now.

2 comments

I had a minute and decided to check in on your blog…and then I had to chime in on the Lamb love! I’m really glad you liked the book as much as I did.

Hope you & the family are doing well!

by Karen on September 11, 2012 at 10:05 pm. #

So good to hear from you, Karen! And thanks again for making me read the book. I wish we could see each other sometime.

by wendy on September 19, 2012 at 9:26 pm. #