Reviews

Review: The Gospel According to Biff

Hello! Yes, I am the worst blogger, & etc. Right. Moving on.

I’ve just finished reading a book by comedy author Christopher Moore called Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. It wins the award for most absurd title to subtitle word count ratio in a comedy satire about Jesus, and it also wins my personal award for most un-looked-for punch to the gut in a book that was hitherto only mildly thought-provoking and gently amusing, in a childish sort of way.

lamb

I’ve read one book by Moore before–The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove–and found it somewhat entertaining, but mostly an all-over-the place mess of a book. It’s possible that with Lust Lizard the deeper meaning behind an ancient sea beast humping a trailer was too much for my poor mind to comprehend, but I came out of it mildly irritated that I’d wasted time on the text. So why did I pick up another book by said author?

Well, mostly because I think “Biff” is a funny name (also because I’m a sucker for re-tellings of Biblical stories, especially meta-textual ones, but mostly the name thing).

Lamb is nothing like Lust Lizard. Well, I shouldn’t say nothing like it; the juvenile humor is the same, albeit slightly better controlled and more directed at sexual repression (and the occasional potty joke) than kinky inter-species sex, and the plots have in common a tendency to wander. But what Lamb has that Lust Lizard lacks is Biff, and Biff makes all the difference.

Christ’s childhood friend, Biff, is an asshole. That’s not giving anything away–it’s literally the first thing you learn about him:

“There’s a reason Biff isn’t mentioned in the other books, you know? He’s a total–“
“Don’t say it.”
“But he’s such an asshole.” (page 1)

And while this characterization is largely justified–Biff does a lot of questionable things, likes to trick people, and also invents the art of sarcasm–it misses a key element in his character: steadfast, unshakable loyalty to his best friend, Joshua (later known as Jesus Christ). Even when Biff is being a complete asshole, you can understand him in the context of his relationship with Joshua, and it’s humanizing as hell for both characters. Which is nice for the reader, because Biff is doing the narrating.

But Biff also serves another function: to stay resolutely skeptical of everything Joshua says and does, and to openly mock anyone who tries to offer up the One Truth of the Universe. Lamb is a comedy, but it is also a satire of religion, and the notion that any one doctrine or school of thought could have The Answers. While Joshua finds truth in the various philosophies the two encounter (Judaism, Mysticism, Buddhism, Hinduism, even Cynicism), Biff finds absurdity and pretension. While Joshua throws himself into the various studies whole-heartedly, Biff rolls his eyes and criticizes, asking questions that no one wants to answer. Between the two of them, they find the light and dark of every philosophy encountered, and often get into quite heated fights over it. Nevertheless, their friendship stays intact, which serves as a rather uplifting little comment on the role that religious philosophies play in life: important to discuss and consider, sure, but in the end? Not worth burning the friendship.

And then, because it’s a Jesus story, the crucifixion happens, and it all goes to shit. And Moore cackles maniacally, stabbing the shattered bits of your bleeding heart with overt symbolism. The bastard.

Allegorically yours,
M.M. Jordahl

“If I was basking in the light of his holiness all the time, how would I take care of him? Who would do all of his lying and cheating for him? Even Josh can’t think about what he is all of the time, Maggie.” -Biff, Lamb, pg. 77

P.S. By the way, gender relations in this book suck. Which they kind of have to, because it’s set in ancient Jerusalem/Middle East/China/India, and also because it’s narrated (and written) by a dude with the sense of humor of a 14-year-old, but fair warning. Lots of overt objectification of women coming your way if you read this one. But they do credit Mary “Maggie” Magdalene with being the smartest person in the town, and she backs it up pretty solidly, so…a point for that, I guess?

P.P.S. My goodreads account, if you’re wondering what I’m reading now (or want to be friends!).

P.P.P.S. I have locked myself into a blogging pact with the lovely ladies Anne Bean and Alexandria Darcy. Updates due up by 9 AM every Monday, or else…something. Check them out, because they are awesome!

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3 thoughts on “Review: The Gospel According to Biff”

  1. I’ve read Christopher Moore’s vampire series (of course – I am a sucker… pun intended… I’m sorry – my coworkers make puns all the time) and I enjoyed it quite a bit. But I do agree that his humor is a bit juvenile most of the time. I was mostly amused because it wasn’t like all the other vampire novels I’ve read, so it was a bit refreshing at the time, haha.

    1. Oh, you mean Bite Me? That’s actually on my list. That one and A Dirty Job (the grim reaper one) are the two by him that I’ve been wanting to read. Do you own it/might I borrow it?

      1. Yes! That one, and the other 2 or 3 that come after it. They were fun. Read them from the library, though, so I don’t own it, sorry! Haven’t read the grim reaper one yet, though. So many books to read!

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