Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore
I first encountered Moore through Lamb, a fictionalization of the Biblical Gospels as told through Jesus’ best friend Biff. It’s an often ludicrous, sacrilegious, absurd, silly and hilarious story that I couldn’t put down. I’m a big fan of the Bible and fictionalized accounts of Jesus, and was hooked on Moore from that point.
Many of his books are even more absurd than Lamb. Vampires and sea monsters and jesters and angels and more vampires and sea monsters wander in and out of these stories making bad choices, reacting to and creating absurd situations and generally being highly entertaining.
In his latest, Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d’Art, Moore gives us the genesis of the greatest art in Western History since, well, before history. To explain how Toulouse-Lautrec and van Gogh and Renoir produced such astonishing art Moore invokes a twisted and immortal partnership between a misshapen caveman and a muse who arrived on Earth via an asteroid.
So, yea, it’s pretty much a Christopher Moore book.
But it’s also more straightforward, if such a thing is possible, and the most literary of Moore’s works to date. The love story between Lucien Lessard and the muse is kind of sweet and straightforward. Most of the painters are presented as people, plain old folk just trying to get by, who happen to be obsessed with painting. And the majority of the novel, unlike other Moore books, is about how the normal people of the book deal with not knowing anything fantastic is going on.
That’s really what makes Sarce Bleu (and I’m sorry I don’t know how to make an accent for Sacre) different. The caveman and muse are important characters, but the story is not from their perspective. It is not the story of these enduring fonts of creative brilliance, or these supernatural beings. Instead it is the story of a nice guy who owns a bakery, paints on the side, falls in love with a beautiful model and has to try to figure out the mystery of his lover.
Remove the pigment and the caveman and this is the story of any man who fell in love with a woman, who needs to discover what makes her so alluring while at the same time so damnably frustrating. For all that Moore claims in the afterward that he just wanted to write a book about blue, it is a romance novel of the first order complete with happy ending.
That is also what makes it the same. Two of Moore’s vampire books are sub-titled “A Love Story,” and Lamb is about the bro-mance between Biff and Jesus. It turns out that Moore is a pretender to the throne of absurdist urban/ historical fantasy, and in truth belongs on the shelf with Harlequins and Avon Books.
Except Moore does it better.
It took a week for me to finish, but it was well worth the effort and time to get through. Sacre Bleu is the best book I’ve read this year.
Right now I’m reading Stuart Woods’ Unnatural Acts, but I’m not going to review it. It’s the sorbet that I read between meals, palate cleansing but not really a part of the literary meal.
Tomorrow I receive Christopher Buckley’s They Eat Puppies, Don’t They?, and will do my next review on that.