"Ha! Yes, once. But now, cousin, blue blood runs in my veins. In fact, I've a mind to start a war and shag some relatives, which I believe are the prime pastimes of royalty."
"Nonsense. And don't call me cousin."
"Shag the country and kill some relatives, then? I've been noble less than a week, I don't have all the protocol memorized yet. Oh, and we are cousins, kitten. Our fathers were brothers." (270)
I've been on a Moore kick lately. I've read several other books by him, and most of them are laugh out loud funny. He's so clever and quick. Probably my favourite of the ones I've read this far was Lamb, but I just finished Bloodsucking Fiends-You Suck-Bite Me and that series was fun. Also, A Dirty Job was a great stand-alone, that had some character cameos in the vampire trilogy as well.
This book is based on King Lear, from the point of view of the fool. (As you may have gleaned from the title.) I've never actually read King Lear, so all of this was new to me, other than the basic characters and plotline of it. The Fool—or Pocket, as he's called—tells us about his life, including how it began when he was abandoned at an abbey. He makes a friend of an anchoress who is walled up with only very small windows at the abbey, and she teaches him about life...in oh so many ways. When they are discovered in the middle of a...conversation, the anchoress's windows are walled up and Pocket is meant to be hanged, but the abbess helps him to escape. He comes to be the King's fool. He amuses Lear's eldest two daughters—in every sense of the word—but also realizes that they're calculating and bloodthirsty. Not so the youngest, Cordelia. Pocket loves her, and despairs when she is disowned by the rapidly degenerating Lear and sent away to France. As Pocket aims to get Cordelia back, get the two oldest daughters their real due, thwart the plot of a bastard of an Earl, and help Kent, Lear's former best friend, escape banishment, hijinks ensue. And of course, there's a ghost. Because there's always a bloody ghost.
I didn't find this one as laugh out loud funny as I have some of his other works, particularly the ones I mentioned earlier. Of course that may be because I've never read the original work upon which this material was based.
There was a reveal towards the end when we find out that the fool Pocket is actually the illegitimate nephew of King Lear, because Lear encouraged his brother to rape Pocket's mother, who then killed herself after no one believed that her child was a bastard royal. As a rule, I tend to be pretty sensitive—admittedly maybe oversensitive sometimes—about the use of rape as a plot point. I think it was entirely unnecessary in this case. This effect could have just as easily been accomplished by Lear's brother having a clandestine relationship with Pocket's mother, deceiving her into thinking that they were in love, and then abandoned her. It wouldn't have shown as much of Lear's brutality, but that also could have been done in a different way.
Other than that, I enjoyed the story but not as much as some of Moore's other works.
This reveal also changed slightly my feelings about Pocket's love for Cordelia, which I found endearing, and then not so much when we find out they are in fact cousins. Not that they would be the first cousin couple in the royal line, as Pocket points out in the quote above.
Here are some of my favourite quotes or interactions that I noted while reading.
"I'd give a month's wages to be behind the blade that slays that bastard Edmund."At the mention of his son, Gloucester started wailing again. "Drown me! I will suffer no more! Give me your sword that I may run upon it and end my shame and misery!""Sorry," I said to Curan. "He's been a bit of a weepy little Nancy to be around since they ripped his eyes out."..."Let me end this suffering," wailed Gloucester. "I can no longer endure the slings and arrows--""My lord Gloucester, would you please, by the fire-charred balls of St. George, shut the fuck up!""Bit harsh, innit?" said Curan."What, I said 'please.'""Still.""Sorry, Gloucester, old chap. Most excellent hat.""He's not wearing a hat," said Curan."Well, he's blind, isn't he? If you hadn't said anything he might have enjoyed his bloody hat, mightn't he?" (231)
From the Author's Note:If you work with the English language, particularly if you work with it as dog-fuckingly long as I have, you are going to run across Will's work at nearly every turn. No matter what you have to say, it turns out that Will said it more elegantly, more succinctly, and more lyrically--and he probably did it in iambic pentameter--four hundred years ago. (305)