Another Roadside Attraction
I first read this during a formative time and recently reread it, maybe for a bit of a refresher. Marx Marvelous is an ex-think tank employee who happens upon a roadside zoo that isn’t really a zoo at all, save for a flea circus and a preserved tse tse fly. Amanda Ziller, the young and extremely sexy clairvoyant who runs the joint alongside her silent musician husband, becomes Marvelous’s muse. Meanwhile, Plucky Purcell, a friend of the Zillers, gets entangled with a secret order of Catholic assassin monks somewhere in the forests of northern Washington State. The brotherhood heads to the Holy See for a conference, during which a catastrophic earthquake reveals the vast treasure hidden in the Vatican’s catacombs including one skeleton that, if removed from the closet, may spell the end for Western civilization. Purcell makes off with the mummy (guess who) and brings it to the zoo. Robbins draws on a vast base of religious, historical and philosophical knowledge here, which both enhances and occasionally bogs down the narrative. I recommend this to agnostics and others who may need to see organized religion get a well-deserved pummeling.
We’ve all heard the following Nietzsche quote: “God is dead.” While the German philosopher is referring to the death of the idea of God and the moral order associated with it, Morrow’s novel deals with the death of a physical God. As in, a dude with a long white beard, a couple of football fields in height, keels over and tumbles into the Atlantic Ocean. A retired oil tanker captain, haunted by his role in the Exxon Valdeez disaster, is tapped by the Vatican to tow the deceased up to the Arctic Circle, where the angels have dug a tomb out of a glacier. Morrow can at times get heavy-handed with allegory, but given such a premise, symbolism is ripe for the pickin’ here. Can you imagine what would happen if the ship’s crew found out about the precious cargo? And can we apply this to humanity? I think we can. Towing Jehovah deals with the physical death of the creator/overseer, but much like Nietzsche, what Morrow seems to really be getting at is the death of the idea of god, its implications, how to go on living despite the absence of an enforcer.
The full title of this novel is Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. A swiftly paced and lighthearted read, Lamb is told from the viewpoint of Biff, who grew up with Jesus (Josh) and was there during the missing years. Biff and Josh first meet at age six, when Josh is repeatedly bringing a dead lizard back to life. Since Biff is resurrected in modern times by a soap opera-addicted angel to tell his side of the story, the author has full license to throw in all kinds of slang, a notion with which Moore was clearly having fun. For example, at the opening of the novel, Mary (whom all the other mothers think is nuts) tells Josh’s younger brothers that Josh “is truly the Son of God,” to which the boys say, “Oh, jeez, Mother,” and “Yeah, jeez, Mom.” Moore has a lot to work with, given Christ’s lost years. It’s Biff’s job to fill us in: “This Matthew fellow, who is obviously not the Matthew that we knew, seems to have left out quite a bit. Like everything from the time Joshua was born to the time he was thirty!!!” Its pace, humor, and subversive nature make Lamb quite an addictive read. MTW