Christopher Moore’s 2005 novel The Stupidest Angel tells the story of one extremely clueless — albeit extremely powerful — angel who visits the California coastal community of Pine Cove to carry out an extremely spectacular miracle.
Which goes, you guessed it, extremely wrong.
Not to worry. He eventually carries out a second miracle to fix all the problems — such as zombies and terrors and horrors and deaths — that the first one created. It is, after all, a Christmas book.
But, before you go jumping to conclusions, you need to know that, on some unmarked page before page one, Moore issues an Author’s Warning:
If you’re buying this book as a gift for your grandson or a kid, you should be aware that it contains cusswords as well as tasteful depictions of cannibalism and people in their forties having sex. Don’t blame me. I told you.
Well, maybe not exactly “tasteful.”
“A choir of suffering houseflies”
True, The Stupidest Angel features sex in a graveyard, and an evil developer who lets nothing, including death, stop him, and a naked warrior princess who’s off her meds, and, well, yeah, a lot of elements that would be difficult to define as refined in any way.
Yet, c’mon, Moore sprinkles his story with literary allusions to Thornton Wilder’s great play Our Town (although, in The Stupidest Angel, the voices of those buried in the town cemetery aren’t so quaint nor, for that matter, do their bodies stay buried), and to O. Henry’s classic short story “The Gift of the Magic” (although, in Moore’s story, one gift is a deluxe bong while the other is an ancient Japanese samurai sword that, let’s just say, doesn’t stay in its fancy scabbard).
There’s even a reference to a great American poet:
Theophilus Crowe’s mobile phone played eight bars of “Tangled Up in Blue” in an irritating electronic voice that sounded like a choir of suffering houseflies, or Jiminy Cricket huffing helium, or, well, you know, Bob Dylan…
“Bland white cake”
True, The Stupidest Angel does contain fairly unusual conversations, such as this one between Lena who just kind of accidentally killed her evil-developer former husband and Tuck who happened to see it happen, helped her dispose of the body and now has taken her out to dinner:
“We just buried my ex-husband,” Lena said.
“Sure, sure, but then we delivered Christmas trees to the poor. A little perspective, huh? A lot of people have buried their husbands.”
“Not personally. With the shovel they killed him with.”
Yet, it is a book that offers, in addition to a story of lust and slayings worthy of the Bible, some theological insight as well, such as when the stupidest angel Raziel is run over by a Volve:
Licking his lips, he tasted vulcanized rubber, thinking that it wouldn’t be bad with hot sauce or perhaps chocolate sprinkles.
(There is little variety of flavors in heaven, and an abundance of bland white cake has been served to the heavenly host over the eons, so Raziel had fallen in to the habit of tasting things while dirtside, just for the contrast. Once, in the third century B.C., he had consumed the better part of a bucket of camel urine before his friend the Archangel Zoe slapped it out of his hand and informed him that it was, despite the piquant bouquet, nasty.)
“Unless, of course,…”
Actually, Raziel didn’t really want to be “dirtside” to carry out the job of creating a Christmas miracle. But he’d lost a card game to Archangel Michael, and that was that.
Raziel wished he could trade this in for the destruction of a city. That was so simple. You found the city, you killed all the people, you leveled all the buildings, even if you totally screwed it up you could track down the survivors in the hills and kill them with a sword, with, in truth, Raziel kind of enjoyed.
Unless, of course, you destroyed the wrong city, and he’d only done that what? Twice?
And, while The Stupidest Angel provides unexpected insights into the workings of the heavenly hosts, it also looks behind the shroud, so to speak, to examine questions rarely raised about zombies, such as how to you organize a horde of the undead, something Dale, the dead evil developer, is trying to do:
Supervising the undead was worse than dealing with a construction crew full of drunks and cokeheads. At least his living crews had all their limbs and most of their physical coordination. This bunch was pretty floppy…
“Move the goddam tree,” Dale growled. “What am I paying you for?”
“Is he paying us?” asked Marty in the Morning…
“I can’t believe you ate all the brains,” Warren Talbot, the dead painter, said. “That was supposed to be for everyone.”
Okay, we’re not talking Dickens’ A Christmas Carol here.
Although, now that I mention it, I do wonder what Moore would do with that story….
Moore usually has a monster of some sort, or more than one, in his novels. Perhaps Scrooge could be the monster…?
Moore has “borrowed” from Shakespeare’s King Lear and from Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea and Melville’s Moby Dick. He’s played around with the life of Jesus and the stories of Othello and The Merchant of Venice.
Why not Scrooge?
(Nod, nod, nudge, nudge.)
Patrick T. Reardon