Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christopher Moore's "A Dirty Job" - Matty Jacobson


This title tripped across my iPad on a random recommendation. I'd just finished Neil Gaiman's "Neverwhere" and sent a call out to my social network buddies.

What had my friends read that they thought I might also enjoy? One recommendation was for Andrew Davidson's "Gargoyle," which I'm still reading in between other books. I'll get back to you on that one.

The other came from my colleague who, despite having known me for less than a year, pegged me pretty well when she said I'd like Christopher Moore's "A Dirty Job."

"Job" is a modern-day fairy tale in the vein of the kind of fairy tales the Grimms and the Andersons actually told. (You know what I'm talking about -- Red Riding Hood gets ripped to shreds by a wolf, The Little Mermaid kills herself, a prince rapes a sleeping beauty -- not your Disney fluff.)

Charlie Asher is grieving over a recent loss and trying to run a second-hand shop all while simultaneously having to figure out how to raise a newborn daughter. He has help, of course, in the form of his lesbian sister Jane, who tends to steal Charlie's best suits; Ray, an employee of Charlie's and suspicious ex-cop (with a penchant for overseas dating websites); and Lily, another employee whose dark demeanor, dark dress and dark moods almost force you to cast Kristin Stewart in the role.

Whatever chaos he thought he was living is turned on its head when Charlie gets himself a new job: Death Merchant. You know, going around and collecting souls and whatnot.

The thing that makes stories like this really successful is the comedy. The utter ridiculousness of the situation demands a narrative addressing the fact. Moore does that perfectly through Charlie's eyes.

Unlike other "man becomes death" books like "On A Pale Horse," by Piers Anthony, which takes itself entirely too seriously, "Job" ladles comedic gravy all over the absurdist meal to make it entirely palatable with a desire for seconds.

And I have no idea what drove me to compare comedy to gravy. I think I might just be hungry.

So I'll go eat and leave you with this review for Christopher Moore's "A Dirty Job."

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

'The Ocean at the End of the Lane' - Matty Jacobson


I didn't realize I was such a huge Neil Gaiman fan until I realized two books I'd read that resonated with me profoundly, "Good Omens" and "Stardust," were both authored or co-authored by him.

So I recently went on a Neil Gaiman binge session, reading anything he's written. I've gotten through almost his entire collection of full stories. And one of the best, I think, Is his most recent: "The Ocean at the End of the Lane."

True to form, Gaiman doesn't skimp on the awesome and wondrous elements that make his stories so unmistakably his. Like so many of his other books, "The Ocean" begins rooted in a very gray and unimportant place.

The story follows a man who returns to his childhood home. He begins to reminisce about being a boy, and he suddenly starts remembering some very interesting details about his life. He remembers Lettie Hempstock, the girl who lived in the farmhouse with her mother and grandmother just down the street.

He remembered the pond on their property that Lettie called her "ocean." He also began remembering things like the mysterious coin that choked him in the middle of the night, and Ursula Munkton, the woman hired to look after him and his sister.

There is no shortage of magic in this book. There is also no shortage of sadness. "Ocean" offers a glimpse into the heart of a loving young boy and how he perceives family, friends and enemies. It also offers a glimpse at the melancholy reality that most of us grow up to face, and how even the most wonderful and magical things in life can so easily be forgotten.