Books Are Pretty

Thursday, July 13, 2006


One of the geekier, sadder habits I’ve developed at work is picking computer wallpaper to match whichever book I’m reading. Yes, it’s sad, but it gives me a small amount of pleasure in an otherwise soulless corporate existence. Plus, I’ve found some good stuff.

Like, for my review of Skipping Towards Armeggedon, I found a fun propaganda poster from Bureau Crash. Since my e-mails, phone calls, and web surfing are all monitored, it was meaningful to me on more than one level, so I was sorry to see that one go.

Things looked up when I read Christopher Moore’s Lamb, the story that answers a question for the ages: Exactly how did Jesus spend his teenage years? To inspire my reading, I found a very helpful website called (what else?) Teenage Jesus.

This painting is actually not too far off from the spirit of the book. For the forward, called "Author’s blessing," Moore writes,

"If you have come to these pages for laughter,
may you find it.
If you are here to be offended, may your ire rise
And your blood boil."

Because I like the thought of Teenage Jesus myself, all crabby and acne-riddled and worried about girls, I came for the first reason and not so much for the second. I was raised in the Christian faith, and often turned to the Bible during boring sermons in search of something to do. Revelation was always good for a satisfying crazy read, as is Ezekial where he rolls around in feces and recommends that everybody eat it, too. (Side note: How the hell did they pick the authors in the Bible? Matthew was okay, and even that asshole Paul I can understand, but Ezekial was a nut. He must have been related to someone in the ancient publishing industry.) And the Gospels were okay, talking about the life of Jesus, who, despite my cynicism and lack of religious conviction, I still find to be a remarkable human being. There’s baby Jesus in the Gospels, and Rabbi Jesus, and Wine-drinking partying Jesus, and dead Jesus, and, of course, Zombie Jesus. But there’s no teenage Jesus anywhere. Which I don’t exactly blame them for, because it would be difficult to find the proper reverence with which to view a fourteen-year-old Jesus battling the urge to incessantly masturbate. Or a fifteen-year-old Jesus getting into a fight with his brother over whose turn it was to scoop the donkey droppings out of the barn or watch the younger siblings.

Which is exactly the burning questions Moore answers in his novel. Lamb is told from the point of view of Jesus’ best friend, Biff, who is as eager to dive into all the adolescent sins his friend struggles to abstain from. Biff, it becomes clear, serves a lifetime role of helping someone who cannot lie, cheat, or steal survive in a world that’s all about lying, cheating, and stealing. Biff commits the sins that Jesus can’t, or won’t.

The comic novel, which covers the thirty-three year span of both their lives, and the life of Jesus’ beloved Mary Magdelene, is told in modern language and characters react to ancient civilization in very modern ways. After the boys come of age, Jesus and Biff spend seventeen years searching for the Magi who attended Jesus’ birth. Once the Magi are found, they both spend several years being tutored by the wise men to learn ways of salvation that are simultaneously novel and ancient. It is during these years that Jesus (known thoughout the book as "Joshua" hones the philosophy that had a more profound impact on the world than any other: the ideas of love, inclusiveness, forgiveness, and the belief that God is in all of us. Although the book often goes for the broadest possible humor (read: lots of cheap whore jokes), Moore keeps pretty closely to Biblical events, and never actually puts Jesus into situations where he will betray his legend. By putting such a human personality on a young Jesus, Moore actually made me appreciate his life and his sacrifice for humanity much more so than Mel Gibson’s recent theological snuff film.

by Christopher Moore
2002 by HarperCollins
Paperback, 438 pp.
ISBN: 0-380-81381-5

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