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Book Reviews
By Bob Patterson
     

Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings
by Christopher Moore

 
Christopher Moore, holding one of his earlier books.

Book reviewers who have never read any of Christopher Moore's previous work are in for a bit of a surprise if they are assigned to do a report on Fluke because Moore is the king of whimsy.

Reading the first hundred pages, it seems that the fictional look at the small esoteric scientific field that examines the life and ways of whales may be a modern attempt at a new Moby Dick.

Nathan Quinn and his associate Clay Demodocus, along with their intern Amy Earhart and a curious Caucasian Rastafarian surfer called Kona, are deep into an attempt to learn if the songs whales sing are a code or "language" that can be learned.

There are a few curious details that can easily be missed or ignored in the early chapters.

Nathan disappears, and the serious reviewer will see the opportunity for a tale with Clay becoming a modern Ahab on the path of righteous revenge.

(Did you know that Cliff Notes are on the web? Not only that, if it's late at night and you need to see it now, there is a page full of the ones available for immediate purchase and download. At the back of the hard copy of their examination of Moby Dick, when they offer other resources for further study, they now include relevant websites such as this one for the topic "whales in literature.")

So an unsuspecting reviewer could be reading along, watching the obsessive hunt for one particular whale developing, but then . . . WHAM! . . . the whimsy kicks in on page 124 when the character known as "the Old Broad" reassures Clay that she knows Nate is OK because she got a phone call from the whale! Yikes, this is the literary equivalent of falling for Muhamad Ali's famous "rope-a-dope" tactic in boxing.

Toss out the reference material about Moby Dick. Does Cliff Notes have a guide to Pinocchio?

We can't tell you how this ends. Did Pinocchio find a slipper that fits the princess' foot, or did it belong to some mean old wolf disguised to look like a grandmother?

Reviewers who are novices in Christopher Moore's personal universe will seize upon this quote (on page 145): "Some minds, particularly those with a scientific bent, a love of truth and certainty, have limits to how much absurdity they can handle."

Moore throws in some fun facts such as the one on page 166. Did you know that the guy who devised the method of classifying all animals with a name in Latin designated blue whales as aenoptera musculus, which means "little mouse?" Did Herman Melville hip you to that?

Moore is presenting a new fertile field for study. Is writing about whales a sure ticket to literary fame? It seems likely that there is plenty for future thesis work presented here.

How many of Hans Christian Andersen's stories included a reference to Sartre's Being and Nothingness?

So is this an innocuous bit of entertaining diversionary reading or is this quote serious literature? Unquote.

At a book store appearance in the Westwood section of Los Angeles earlier this year, Moore explained to the audience that Fluke was written because he was looking for something to use as a novel's background that would require a winter's worth of research in Hawaii, so he found out that it is a haven for those folks who earn their bread and butter studying whales and he had his topic.

But...

If you have recently dipped into Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces (especially the section titled "The Belly of the Whale" found on page 90 of the Princeton University Press paperback edition), you will see that Fluke is a modern example of one of the themes that Campbell found abounding in the world's folklore. Which means, if you are doing a term paper about contemporary American Literature, you could easily do some serious analysis with Fluke as a "hot off the press" example of an addition to that one particular category.

The thought of doing all that work is a bit too intimidating for the DOA reviewer, so we will just call it a "fun read" (and wonder if there are any other good novel topics that require research in Hawaii) and (after borrowing the 1 -10 [10 = best] movie rating scale) give it a six {entertainment bargain for fans of whimsy} and start the long wait for Moore's next novel.

6/9/03

 

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Archive:

The Badass Bible (An Essential Guide for Men), by S.K. Smith
Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings, by Christopher Moore
Kill Two Birds & Get Stoned, by Kinky Friedman
Murder and Mayhem, by Dr. D.P. Lyle
Kingdom of Fear, by Hunter S. Thompson
Bookmarks for Shortcuts
The Case of the Hidden Gems
Grift Sense, by James Swain
Writing Your Spiritual Autobiography, by Richard B. Patterson
Eureka!
My Life in Heavy Metal, by Steve Almond
So Many Books, So Little Time
Taking Pictures at an Author's Autograph Party
Amusing Ourselves to Death, by Neil Postman
On the Road with a French Poodle (Steinbeck's Travels with Charley)
The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf
Thanks, Elmore Leonard

For a full listing of other book reviews, click here.

 

 
     

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