Monday, February 14, 2011

Novel 4: Practical Demonkeeping by Christopher Moore

I cheerfully admit Christopher Moore is not the most highbrow of novelists. I don't care. As much as I love losing myself in Vikram Seth's beautiful prose, I know deep in my heart that I will never write like him. On the other hand, if I get myself into the habit of writing fiction every day, there is no doubt in my mind that eventually I'll be able to write every bit as well as Christopher Moore, and in much the same genre, too.

Practical Demonkeeping was Moore's first novel. It's the book that made him well-known. It's my own third Moore novel, after Fluke, the story of Hawaii-based whale researchers and the bizarre things they find, and Lamb, the gospel according to Biff, Jesus Christ's exceedingly vulgar best friend who followed the Savior everywhere. I enjoyed both books immensely.

Practical Demonkeeping is the story of a tourist-trap town in California and how the residents react to the arrival one day of the demon Catch, along with his master Travis, who has spent the last seventy ageless years fruitlessly trying to get rid of him. It's well-crafted, but somehow I'm left with the sense that Moore hadn't yet grown into his own style.

On the one hand, Practical Demonkeeping doesn't contain the one plot point common to both Fluke and Lamb: a woman who decides to become a lesbian after witnessing something horrific involving penises. (I don't think that's how lesbians work in the real world.)

On the other hand, I didn't feel like I was reading a book by the author of Fluke and Lamb. Instead, I felt like Carl Hiaasen had decided to try his hand at setting a novel in California rather than Florida, and also add a supernatural element just to see if he could make it work. I'm not complaining. I like Carl Hiaasen.

But it was interesting to see an early stage in the evolution of an author's style, rather than just his ability.

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