Just finished Christopher Moore’s Noir, which I borrowed from Barb after she bought it at Literati. You can see her review here. We think this is the first time we’ve both reviewed the same book, not counting our annual reading project.
First, until I read the afterword, I didn’t realize that Moore was born in Toledo–where we both live–and grew up in Mansfield, which is a couple hours from here. So that’s a coincidence I didn’t expect.
It’s a really good book. I have often said that it is far harder to be funny on purpose than it is to be serious. Anyone who has tried to tell a joke to a live audience–even to lead off a presentation–has learned this fact. It is far easier to make people cry and failure is far less obvious. For that reason, I believe that funny writing is pretty rare.
Moore excels with smart-ass dialogue, which is only part of the job, but he also does something that I would contend is the quadruple axle of writing, which is to convey a sight gag entirely with words.
Moore also has a terrific ability to capture a milieu, something I have seen from him in numerous books. In this one, he writes in the cadence of a noir movie–in fact, you could read most of it with the clipped tones of a fedora-wearing private eye or the streetwise growl of a dame. Believe me, I tested this, to the annoyance of other people, and by that I mean Barb.
To annoy your own loved ones, read this quote aloud in Noirspeak and see if I’m not right:
“She had the kind of legs that kept her butt from resting on her shoes—a size-eight dame in a size-six dress and every mug in the joint was rooting for the two sizes to make a break for it as they watched her wiggle in the door and shimmy onto a barstool with her back to the door.”
Or from the dame.
“It’s French,” she said. “They designed it like a zoo—you know, keep ’em in, but give everyone a good look at ’em…”
Lastly, Moore has the most important ability of a novelist, which is that he never loses sight of the story. In Noir, we’re talking a pretty crazy plot, but his job is to keep you reading and laughing at the same time, and he does it as well as anyone. There’s no gratuity. All the jokes arise organically from thes tory.
I love literary humor writing. My two favorite books of all time are Catch-22 and A Confederacy of Dunces. And I am a big of Chris Moore’s, including, now, this book along with Sacre Bleu and Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal (“sin is moist). I may have to take some time to work through his back catalog. It’s a cliche to say something is “laugh out loud funny” unless you were actually laughing out loud. Which I was.