Saturday, October 18, 2008

the passion of the adolescent

I finally finished Christopher Moore's novel Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal. Sometimes when I'm reading a novel (and it kills me that I'm not the girl I used to be - always with a new one in tow) I take it with me everywhere I go and read it whenever my eyes are not needed for some other crucial task. I've nearly been hit by cars more than a couple of times because I was crossing the street with a book in front of my face. Lamb was one where I picked it up and put it down far too infrequently. I think it's a great book for teenagers, and I would have loved it more a few years ago, but I still thought it was a smart and enjoyable novel bringing a fun perspective to a worn-with-overuse story.

Obviously, I don't mean to be so critical of the story of Jesus' life as I think it's a wonderful collection of parables which should serve as a good influence on everyone's life. I think what Moore realizes is that the jumbled accounts of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John have been sanitized after years of being pounded into us from all sides since childhood. With Lamb, he endeavors to provide a personality and a relatability to the young Son of Man, so that the climactic Good Friday is that much more affective. Lamb concludes before the Resurrection because it is about the young man Joshua, not the heavenly Jesus that we can learn about in the aforementioned Gospels.

Which brings up the novel's interesting format. The narrator is Levi who is called Biff, Joshua's best friend since infancy, who accompanies him (Him?) throughout the missing decade and a half of adolescence, travel, and study. Their buddy comedy plotlines are interrupted by brief glimpses of Biff in a modern-day hotel room, having been brought to life by the angel Raziel who has commanded him to write down his Gospel. Biff and Joshua travel throughout the East learning about philosophies which tie in very well to the teachings of Jesus that we know of today. Because the purity and capabilities of the young Savior make him a somewhat boring literary character, he is well balanced by the lusty loser Levi who is called Biff, and who is allowed to make all the mistakes that Joshua isn't.

The P&T in the story comes, as it always has, from Mary Magdalene, or Maggie, who is the object of both Biff's and Joshua's affections from childhood. Their love triangle is innocent, as Joshua does not intend to know women (if you know what I mean), and Biff and Maggie find comfort in each other from loving and losing their best friend. I found myself frustrated on behalf of Biff that Maggie would never love him exclusively, but I guess her character is an archetype for the ideal Christian, who will always love Jesus more than any person.

Lamb is a good read for anyone with an interest in Christianity as it pertains to culture and/or fiction, and is best for people who have a basic knowledge of the Bible. Some scenes were funny because I remembered the Biblical allusion, and others inspired me to revisit the source text and remind myself what the original story was. Though it wasn't an enthralling page-turner from the start, towards the end I remembered where the story was headed and felt a sadness for the supporting characters in Joshua's life, knowing that despite the Resurrection or their place with Him in eternity, they were losing their friend to a violent and painful death. The epilogue is a nicely crafted bow on the story, and left me satisfied.

No comments: