15 Books: Lamb

So, the latest Facebook meme I’ve given in to was to list “15 Books That Stick With You.”  The idea is simple enough: you write down 15 books that have stuck with you in some way, shape or form, without regard to how having those books on your list will make you look.

Here I present to you my 15 Books, one per day, with a little bit of accompanying commentary.

15: Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore

The cover of my edition of LAMB (which has been missing for some time, by the way).
The cover of my edition of LAMB (which has been missing for some time, by the way).

Christopher Moore’s goofy (and at times vulgar) take on the “lost years” of Jesus Christ is fun, but somehow never irreverent.  It’s hard to take offense at a book that has Jesus studying under one of the three wise men at the Shaolin temple.  (Because Jesus refused to touch a weapon, they created a new fighting style for Him based on redirecting an attacker’s momentum without harming him and called it “Jew-Do.”)

In celebration of Y2K, Jesus has resurrected his best friend and closest disciple—Levi who is called Biff—to write one final gospel, covering not just His ministry, but also the “lost years” of His life. Biff and Jesus spend the bulk of the book traveling through Asia in search of the three wise men, whom they hope can teach Jesus what He’s supposed to do as the Messiah.   Don’t expect a clear delineation of the gospel message: Moore goes to great lengths to try to incorporate principles from many eastern philosophical systems that just aren’t in Jesus’ message or scripture at all.  But I classify this book under the same category as Kevin Smith’s Dogma: If you make it to the scene where Jesus makes friends with a Yeti—heck, if you make it past the premise that there was a thirteenth apostle whom the gospel writers left out because he was a jerk—and you’re still taking it seriously, you’ve missed the point.

Ultimately, it should be a fun and dismissible book, but the sequence in India (where Jesus and Biff find the third wise man) has some moments of surprising emotional impact: Most notably,  Biff observing Jesus’ behavior after they witness ritualistic child sacrifice to Kali.  The image of Jesus lost in such frankly horrified conversation with his Father, oblivious to the other people around Him, is a rare moment where Moore combines tasteful economy of language with emotional sincerity, and it is all the more memorable by the gleeful frivolity of the rest of the book.

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