I hope you’ll excuse the hiatus. I had to go to Azerbaijan for a couple weeks. No, I’m completely serious.
Anyway, that’s a long couple of flights, and I read a book, you know! I was reminded, too, that airplane fiction is called such for good reason. It generally describes an unchallenging bestseller to be ingested and passed through the system more quickly than the complimentary microwaved tray of penne di vomitare.
That doesn’t mean I read Vince Flynn, because fuck that shit. For entertaining, forgettable fiction I tend to go in the humorous direction, so for such a purpose I brought Christopher Moore. He’s got another novel, Sácre Bleu, hitting shelves next month, and I picked up Coyote Bleu. I mean Blue. As far as comic novelists go, I say he’s the best thing since Douglas Adams. Even a bad Moore book (e.g. Fool, Bite Me) is hard to dislike because there’s such a sweet impishness to his writing. He’s profane and filthy without any traceable meanness.
This one, Coyote Blue concerns a life insurance salesman, Sam Hunter, whose life is turned upside-down by the Crow Indian trickster deity Old Man Coyote. Sam, who is secretly Crow, ran off from the reservation as a teenager and changed his identity. After twenty years of chasing the dollar, he’s a partner in a high-powered firm and is living a comfortable bachelor existence in a SoCal gated community.
That won’t do at all. One day a mysterious Indian in buckskins appears and helps him pick up a gorgeous eccentric hippie named Calliope Kincaid, so that’s nice– but later Sam finds out the Indian as attacked his prospective client with a tomahawk and has changed into coyote form to wreak havoc on the snobs in his condo. What ensues is a violent overthrow of the life Sam thought he wanted and a reluctant return to his spiritual roots.
It recalls one of those movies in the 80′s and 90′s where some zany mystical being or imaginary friend comes and demolishes the main character’s life in order to teach him/her a lesson. That being the case, Coyote almost singlehandedly carries the humor in this thing. The funniest moments come when he accompanies Sam at Las Vegas, bringing Coyote to admire an entire institution of tricksters superior to him (bastards won’t let him use his “cheating powder” on the craps dice). When he’s not boning every cat in sight– in coyote form, rest assured– though, he’s surprisingly understated as a trickster god. The remaining cast is quirky (Calliope wonders aloud if the Germans make such quality cars out of guilt for the Holocaust) but not zany enough to supply the madcap energy I was hoping for.
Refraining From a “Moore” Pun
So Coyote Blue is narratively tidier than most other Moore books, but that’s like saying your Mediterranean uncle is less hairy than a race of yetis.
Anyone who’s familiar with Lamb knows that Moore has an intense curiosity of religion. Even A Dirty Job had “rules” based on the Book of the Dead. Coyote Blue seems to want to score a blackout on the world religion bingo board, littering the action with gags involving everything from Catholic-themed guns-blazing video game to a baby’s nursery decorated with a figurine of Kali the Destroyer. In the words of Eddie Izzard: blasphemy, blas-for-you, blas-for-everybody.
I don’t think Coyote Blue is as memorable as either of those aforementioned novels: it follows too familiar a formula. Nor is it quite as funny overall, but I’ll tell you it was still plenty fine for passing the time on the airplane. After in-flight dinner, my stomach was producing troubling noises, the kinds one should only hear issuing from a cartoon chemistry lab, and there’s something to be said for a book that distracts me from that.
Read it if
1. You’re a Moore fan and aren’t expecting his best stuff.