A Dirty Job
thrift shop owner Charlie Asher is in first-time-father fluster when his
ever-so-patient wife Rachel shoos him from the recovery room so she and baby
Sophie can catch a break from his obsessive TLC. He gets no farther than the
minivan when he spies his wife''s favorite Sarah McLachlan CD and turns heel to
hustle it back to her quarters. When he arrives, he finds a tall black man
decked out in Andes-Mint green standing at her bedside. Startled that both
father and newborn can apparently see him, the minty one awkwardly informs
Charlie that Rachel is dead, and then vanishes amid the rush of crash carts and
the futile attempts to revive her.
It''s a heck of a way to start a comedy, but then, as the title of
Christopher Moore''s ninth novel suggests, death is indeed A Dirty Job.
Bereaved, Charlie tracks down the angel of death. His name is Minty Fresh,
and he informs Charlie that, because he could see him in Rachel''s room, he,
like Minty, is a death merchant whose calling is to attend certain death
scenes, retrieve the departing soul in a vessel and convey it to a new body.
They''re not grim reapers, he explains, but grim sowers?or should be. The
problem is, Charlie seems to be causing deaths, and to his horror, so is
baby Sophie, not an attractive quality in a newborn.
Soon Charlie finds himself in a battle to the death with raven-like Dark
Forces that swoop from the sewers, cruise in a vintage Cadillac and threaten
Armageddon, or at least a bad case of bird flu. It''s up to Charlie, his Goth
assistant Lily, Minty Fresh and a pint-sized army whose souls are double-parked
in the bodies of squirrels to save San
Francisco when its ship comes in.
If anyone can
truly laugh in the face of death, it would be Moore. Good-hearted, well intentioned, utterly
fearless and totally irreverent, the one-time Ohio State
anthropology major previously cannonballed into such treacherous waters as the
life of Jesus and laid waste to Christmas books by combining brain-eating
zombies with a murderous Santa Claus in The Stupidest Angel.
My mom passed away in 1999 and I was her primary caretaker for the last five
months of her life. It was one of the most difficult things I''ve ever done, and
I do think it changed the way I look at everything, he says from his home on
the Hawaiian island
of Kauai. It was the
seminal experience informing this book and a big motivator for writing it. I''m
not sure that the book helped me deal with my mother''s passing as much as it
sort of paid homage to her and the people who care for the dying. I was
profoundly impressed by the people who work with hospice.
doesn''t get weighed down in religious doctrine. Instead, he posits a perfectly
rational, if slightly chaotic, means by which life, death and reincarnation
might occur. I mean, who''s to say a Sarah McLachlan CD might not serve as a
perfectly acceptable soul coaster?
I wanted to pay attention to the idea of the ongoing nature of the soul, but
I was really trying not to duplicate stuff that had come before me, he admits. There
have been a lot of spooky, Sixth Sense sorts of stories on death and
dying and I was trying to steer clear of replicating their mechanisms, so by
reaction, mine became kind of convoluted. I didn''t outright reject or accept
any paradigms or belief systems, I just tried to present the possibility that
there was an underlying order to the ascension of the soul that would work
within the spiritual framework of a Buddhist, a Christian, a Hindu, whoever.
Don''t expect a straight answer on his personal view of reincarnation,
I believe at some point in my spiritual evolution my soul did a stint as a
two-slice toaster, he says. I can feel the toast of my inner being, but only
two slices. Weird, huh?
Moore''s anthropology studies have serveave been inspired by living among the colorful natives of Micronesia meeting a Native American shaman in Montana hanging with marine biologists in Hawaii and exploring San Francisco. His next book will be a sequel
to Fiends, his 1995 vampire romp, set once again in his favorite city by
has such a great contrast of architecture, with natural beauty, dark and light,
art and commerce, plus all the different ethnic cultures, it''s like a big party
bowl of weirdness, he says. It''s still an inspirational setting for a macabre
story. San Francisco
still feels like a natural habitat for vampires.
If he''s been able to lighten us up just a little on the gloomy subject of
says he will have completed his dirty job.
One of the things that eludes me is how people will hush you when you make a
death joke, as if Death will hear you. It''s that fear of irony thing: Don''t say
that, you could die yourself someday. Well duh! That''s sort of the point of the
book, isn''t it? No one gets out alive; we might as well laugh at it.
- Life After Death
- Why Afraid From Death
- Why Afraid From Death
- Dharma Punx
- Many Lives, Many Masters