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Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff (Moore)

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal
Christopher Moore, 2002
HarperCollins
464 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780380813810


In Brief
  
We know all about Christ's birth, and even more about Christ's death. But until he really started getting the word of God out there, there's little recorded information about his life. What do we really know about the Messiah's formative years? Enter Christopher Moore's Biff, resurrected by the angel Raziel and held captive in a New York City hotel room until he records a new gospel.

Lamb is the story of Biff writing his and his buddy Jesus Christ's (aka Joshua's) story; it's the hilarious inside scoop on the could-be origins of hundreds of tales we recognize from the Bible and from popular culture. While negotiating the terrors, curiosities, and conveniences of modern life, Biff transcribes the untold story of his and Josh's youth. He describes the escapades of the Son of God — from his time as a stone-cutter's apprentice in Nazareth to his journeys to modern-day Afghanistan, China, and India in search of the magi who attended his birth; to his return to his homeland to gather his disciples and fulfill his destiny. Underlying it all is the story of his unconsummated love for an incomprehensibly beautiful woman named Mary the Magdalene.

Biff reveals the human side of the Son of God, and paints a vivid historical picture of what life might really have been like in Christ's time. Plus, it's really funny. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—August 5, 1958
Where—Toledo, Ohio, USA
Education—Ohio State Univ., Brooks Inst. of Photography
Awards—Quill Award, 2005 and 2006
Currently—Hawaii and San Francisco, California


A 100-year-old ex-seminarian and a demon set off together on a psychotic road trip...

Christ's wisecracking childhood pal is brought back from the dead to chronicle the Messiah's "missing years"...

A mild-mannered thrift shop owner takes a job harvesting souls for the Grim Reaper...

Whence come these wonderfully weird scenarios? From the fertile imagination of Christopher Moore, a cheerfully demented writer whose absurdist fiction has earned him comparisons to master satirists like Kurt Vonnegut, Terry Pratchett, and Douglas Adams.

Ever since his ingenious debut, 1992's Practical Demonkeeping and his 2002 Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Moore has attracted an avid cult following. But, over the years, as his stories have become more multi-dimensional and his characters more morally complex, his fan base has expanded to include legions of enthusiastic general readers and appreciative critics.

Asked where his colorful characters come from, Moore points to his checkered job resume. Before becoming a writer, he worked at various times as a grocery clerk, an insurance broker, a waiter, a roofer, a photographer, and a DJ — experiences he has mined for a veritable rogue's gallery of unforgettable fictional creations. Moreover, to the delight of hardcore fans, characters from one novel often resurface in another. For example, the lovesick teen vampires introduced in 1995's Bloodsucking Fiends are revived (literally) for the 2007 sequel You Suck—which also incorporates plot points from 2006's A Dirty Job.

For a writer of satirical fantasy, Moore is a surprisingly scrupulous researcher. In pursuit of realistic details to ground his fiction, he has been known to immerse himself in marine biology, death rituals, Biblical scholarship, and Goth culture. He has been dubbed "the thinking man's Dave Barry" by none other than The Onion, a publication with a particular appreciation of smart humor.

As for story ideas, Moore elaborates on his website: "Usually [they come] from something I read. It could be a single sentence in a magazine article that kicks off a whole book. Ideas are cheap and easy. Telling a good story once you get an idea is hard." Perhaps. But, to judge from his continued presence on the bestseller lists, Chris Moore appears to have mastered the art.

Extras
From a 2006 Barnes & Noble interview:

• In researching his wild tales, Moore has done everything from taking excursions to the South Pacific to diving with whales. So what is left for the author to tackle? He says he'd like to try riding an elephant.

• One of the most memorably weird moments in Moore's body of work is no fictional invention. The scene in Bloodsucking Fiends where the late-night crew of a grocery store bowls with frozen turkeys is based on Moore's own experiences bowling with frozen turkeys while working the late shift at a grocery store.

When asked what book influenced his career as a writer, he answered:

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. In Cannery Row, Steinbeck writes about very flawed people, but with great affection, and by doing so, shows us that it is our flaws that make us human, and that is what we share, that is our humanity. A friend of mine used to say, "He writes with the voice of a benevolent God." In the process, the book is also very funny. I think I saw that as a model, as a guide. I'd always written humor that was fairly edgy, but here was a guy writing with great power and gentle humor. I was moved and inspired."  (Author bio Barnes & Noble.)



Book Reviews
A childhood pal of the savior is brought back from the dead to fill in the missing 30-year "gap" in the Gospels in Moore's latest, an over-the-top festival of sophomoric humor that stretches a very thin though entertaining conceit far past the breaking point. The action starts in modern America, specifically in a room at the Hyatt in St. Louis, where the angel who shepherds "Levi who is called Biff" has to put Christ's outrageous sidekick under de facto house arrest to get him to complete his task. Moore (Bloodsucking Fiends) gets style points for his wild imagination as Biff recalls his journey with Jesus dubbed Joshua here according to the Greek translation into and out of the clutches of Balthasar, then into a Buddhist monastery in China and finally off to India, where they dabble in the spiritual and erotic aspects of Hinduism. The author gets more serious in his climax, offering a relatively straightforward, heartfelt account of the Passion and Christ's final days that includes an intriguing spin on how the Resurrection might have happened. The Buddhist and Hindu subplots seem designed to point out the absurdity and excesses of religious customs, but none of the characters are especially memorable, and eventually both plot and characters give way to Biff's nightclub patter. As imaginative as some of this material is, the sacrilegious aspects are far less offensive than Moore's inability to rein in his relentless desire to titillate, and his penchant for ribald, frat-boy humor becomes more annoying as the book progresses. Moore has tapped into organized religion for laughs before, but this isn't one of his better efforts.
Publishers Weekly


(Adult/High School) An angel has resurrected Levi bar Alpheus, known as Biff, to tell this story of his life with Joshua, better known to the modern world as Jesus Christ. As youths, they travel to the East in search of the wise men who gave gifts to Joshua at his birth, because the young man has a problem: he knows he's the Messiah, but he doesn't know what to do about it. Along the way, he and Biff come in contact with the spirituality of the East, along with a smattering of martial arts, strange poisons, abominable snowmen, and more. The story concludes with their return to Israel and Biff's own explanation of the events that make up the traditional gospel narrative. Readers who might be offended by the author's casual treatment of Christian themes may also take umbrage at his treatment of Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, and much else. However, the author manages to share a variety of the world's spiritual insights while creating interesting and vivid characters. The style is smooth, drawing readers into the story seamlessly except for the need to laugh out loud every page or two. The humor is good-natured, despite the fact that Biff claims to be the inventor of a practice known as "sarcasm." In an excellent afterword, the author explains the choices he made in writing the novel, which will fascinate would-be writers, as well as provide a rebuttal for the book's likely critics. —Paul Brink, Fairfax County Public Library System, VA
Library Journal


Absurd? Of course, and as in Moore's other books, the jokes, ranging from the sublime to the sophisticated to the utterly sophomoric, make the book. What Lamb lacks in theological sophistication it more than compensates with mirth. Although many will find something offensive in this novel...they will find it simply impossible not to laugh. —John Green
Booklist


An audacious and irreverent novel about Jesus' childhood seen through the eyes of his best pal. Moore (Blood Sucking Fiends, 1995, etc.) has penned an amusing tale guaranteed deeply to offend all right-thinking Christians. The conceit is this: In 2001, Jesus decides that someone should write the missing gospel of his childhood, and he selects Levi-called Biff-the wisecracking companion and alter ego of his youth. Biff is resurrected and locked in a hotel suite in St. Louis with the angel Raziel, who is there to insure that he gets the writing job done. Raziel quickly becomes hooked on TV soaps, while Biff, grumbling, sets to work. Jesus' childhood, it turns out, was like that of most Jewish kids of his day (Moore offers much rich historical detail here), except he was the Messiah. This makes him sweet-natured and incapable of cruelty, lying, or sin, all of which puts him at a distinct disadvantage in a world that's violent and lustful. Enter Biff, the street-smart friend who protects Jesus from his own naivete, observes his early attempts at miracles (restoring lizards, etc.), helps him to understand sin (by fornicating with a harlot while explaining it to Jesus in the next stall), and much more. Mary Magdalene (Maggie) is on the scene, lusting after Jesus and lusted after by Biff. Though Jesus is pretty sure he is the Messiah, he is also, like any kid learning a trade, not sure what he should (and should not) do as Messiah. He sets out on a loopy and sometimes-hilarious quest to discover his destiny (and test his powers), while Biff, thoroughly cynical and amoral, accompanies him. The style is a bizarre mix of serious and sometimes brutal historical fiction laced with black humor, wordplay, in-jokes, and sharp one-liners worthy of a good stand-up comedian. Sometimes it all works well, and sometimes the jokes seem strained. Interesting, original, not for every taste.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions 
1. Did you find Lamb to be fairly true to the Bible as you know it? Did you learn anything from Lamb? Do you find reading the Bible enjoyable?

2. Early in the book, Biff writes about "little-boy love," describing it as "...the cleanest pain I've ever known. Love without desire, orconditions, or limits — a pure and radiant glow in the heart that could make me giddy and sad and glorious all at once." Do you understand what he's saying? Have you ever experienced that kind of love?

3. Would Joshua have made it to maturity without Biff? Do you think Jesus had any human — not divine help in becoming who he was? Is Moore making a statement about historical facts in the Bible, or about the value of friendship in general?

4. Were you offended by this book in any way? There's so much here that Moore could almost be called an "equal opportunity offender." Did you find that some parts bothered you, while others didn't? Did he go too far, in any way? Not far enough?

5. At one point, Biff asks, "Are all women stronger and better than me?" and Josh answers, "Yes." Do you think Moore believes this? Do you think Christianity teaches this? From what you know about other world religions, how does the role of women differ in each?

6. Did you recognize any moments in your own development as you heard the story of Christ's? Do you relate to the character of Josh? Does this story of "Josh" make you feel any differently about Jesus as a human being?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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