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Shakespeare for Squirrels
Fool #3
by Christopher Moore
Wm. Morrow, $28.99, 263pp
Published: May 2020

Moore is one of the funniest and quirkiest writers ever to put fingers to keyboard.  It may not be a laugh-a-minute but one comes away with a pretty permanent quirk upwards to one’s lips.  In other words – not slapstick but some seriously deep guffaws interspersed with sincere chuckles and the unfortunate snort from time to time.

This time out, Moore continues with satirizing Shakespeare using Midsummer Night’s Dream as his primary inspiration and setting.  Our diminutive hero, Pocket of Dog Snogging, was set adrift by his pirate crew (probably because he was a shit) and he, Drool and the monkey, Jeff, end up on the shores of Greece.  It isn’t a gentle landing and he wakes under the care of a small girl.  Before he can ask any questions, she flits off to see her mistress, the Night Queen.  Puzzling over that, the little troup meets up with a group of would-be actors using the forest for their rehearsal.  They almost immediately run afoul of the local watch but without the proper credentials from the local King, the watch attempts to arrest our hapless heroes.  Drool is lost to the local jail; Pocket makes good an escape but runs into Robin Goodfellow otherwise known as Puck.  Puck gives him direction out of the forest and then disappears.

Next up are the four lovers from Midsummer Night’s Dream lifted almost intact into these pages.  Before Pocket could be trounced by Demetrius in a jealous rage when he caught his Helena talking to Pocket, he (Pocket, not Demetrius) was rescued by the same small girl who saved him from the ocean.  Having more time in her company, he finally discovers she is a fairy, belonging to Titania. In the morning, he sets out to find a city and finds Puck, instead.  Unfortunately, he happens upon the fairy just as he is murdered. And, just as unfortunately, Pocket is found with the body by the Watch. Once incarcerated, he is interrogated by none other than Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, soon to be married to the local Duke.  She is intensely interested in what Puck was doing before he was killed and much less about who killed him.  She gives Pocket three days to find the information before she guts him.  Later, taken into custody by the Duke, he is given the same mission – find out what Puck was doing.

One thing that became clear easily was that the Puck had been doing puckish things, as evidenced by his shenanigans with the four lovers wandering the forest – confused love being Puck’s stock-in-trade.  Pocket had to wonder, though, was the enchanted flower that so confused the young human lovers actually intended for someone else?  Once back in the company of the fairies, Pocket was to discover they were no different than humans in their jealousies and intrigues as Titania and Oberon are fighting over a small human boy, for reasons that Pocket cannot discern.  Titania, having transformed a human shopkeeper into part donkey in order to use the best donkey-bits to taunt Oberon, relents and allows the donkey-man to leave with Pocket who is at a loss to return him to his humanity.  It appeared that only Puck who turned him originally, can turn him back.

About half-way through the book, the Narrator appears.  This was an oft-used device of Shakespeare which means Moore was not going to miss an opportunity to break the fourth wall.  This afforded a few smirks and chuckles for this reader.  The balance of the story was the mystery and Pocket’s attempts to sort out the intrigues both for the glory of the hunt but also to keep all his man-bits in their proper places.

It was a competent plot and there was plenty of shagging so this reader was satisfied.  But it wasn’t as clever or as fun as the two previous stories.  It doesn’t mean this well has run dry, there are plenty of other opportunities that Moore could mangle – think of “Much Ado About Nothing”.  If that one doesn’t have an abundance of shagging opportunities, I don’t know what would. ~~  Catherine Book

Click here for more titles by Christopher Moore

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