“A Dirty Job” and “You Suck: A Love Story,” both by Christopher Moore
I was talking with a COHS student about vampire books, and she recommended that I read some Christopher Moore titles, so I did. She thought they might be popular with COHS students.
“A Dirty Job” is about a ‘beta’ male, Charlie Asher. He is in a constant state of worry. His wife dies very unexpectedly after giving birth to their only child, Sophie. Charlie happens to walk into the room as Death—or a helper of Death—is collecting his wife’s soul. The ironic twist that Charlie is also called to be a sort of death helper (as opposed to Death with a capital ‘D”) creates a lot of the wacky humor that follows. In San Francisco alone (the setting of the novel), there are many helper deaths, and they collect souls in objects (soul vessels), which later will find their way to the right ‘soulless’ person. So, some of these death characters own used CD/record stores or, in Charlie’s case, a thrift shop that sells old clothes, etc. Charlie knows which of the old items hold the souls of owners who have died because they glow red.
Adding to the drama, the Forces of Darkness are on the rise, and they want to reap the souls as a way of gaining strength while working on conquering the world. They’d also like to snatch baby Sophie, so she must be guarded by giant Hellhounds. (Try keeping those in your house.)
“You Suck,” published next after “A Dirty Job,” has some of the same characters, but apparently it’s more of a sequel to an older title “Bloodsucking Fiends” (one I haven’t read.) I liked this as a bit of a wake-up call for “Twilight” fans. Here are two undead young lovers who must drink blood to survive, and that’s actually pretty gross for them. Blood must be added to anything else they’d like to drink—coffee, for instance. Feeding at night, sleeping during the day, and accidentally getting burned by the sun turn out to be a drag. (Who could have guessed?) Worse yet, not everyone is happy to have vampires in the neighborhood (seriously fans of Edward—who would have guessed?!), and the two are being hunted both by an ancient vampire and Tommy’s former friends, the Animals—commonly know as Safeway Supermarket stock boys.
Fortunately, Tommy and Jody have a devoted minion—Abby Normal, goth girl, who appeared as a minor character in “A Dirty Job.” Abby’s journal entries make up a significant portion of the book. They are stereotypical whines and ranks from an emo teen who would like to be undead, too. Nevertheless, they are spot-on hilarious.
Moore’s novels mix horror with comedy, creating a farce. They are original in genre and laugh-out-loud funny—sometimes tear-inducing funny. The characters themselves are less original—they are stereotypes: the goth/emo teen, the beta male, and on—but they, too, are pretty darned amusing.
I agree that these novels could be popular with COHS students. They are very different from what I usually read—I found myself scanning quickly, looking for the next punch line, rather than contemplating a deeper significance. (Reading these books is very much like seeing a stand-up comic in a live show.) Not a bad way to spend an evening. However, as you are in high school and I am a teacher, I’ll add this caveat: these are adult books. We have them here at COHS because the public library purchased them. I doubt the other high schools in our district have them because they contain low-brow sexual humor—in fact, some rude sex—and foul language. No, I don’t think they will make you lose your innocence or your beliefs, but it’s good to know what you’re getting into in case you don’t want to read this sort of thing. (I know some of you are not allowed to, or do not wish to, watch R-rated movies. Just as a guideline, if R-rated movies are out, so are these books.) Moore recently published a new title that is now on best seller lists—“Fool.” It’s located in the new fiction, but there’s a waiting list to check it out.
I’ll ask the student who recommended the books to make a comment about them, so you can get a teen point of view.