This is the hardest book review I’ve ever written because, at the time of my writing, Christopher Moore’s “Shakespeare for Squirrels” does not come out for another two months. (It is available now, at the time of printing.) Trying to peer into the future at this point seems a fool’s errand. Two months is a long time when we are living on tenterhooks from day to day. It is not absurd to wonder what the world might look like in two months. Will I be here? Will you be here? Will The Free Lance–Star still be here? No degree of change or despair seems unfathomable and that is scary. In a time like this, we need Christopher Moore.
Moore has an innate ability to write humorously on a wide variety of subjects, but in “Shakespeare for Squirrels,” he returns to his love of the bard and his recurring character, the court jester Pocket, in this uniquely Moore-ish take on Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The bones of Shakespeare’s play are apparent, but Moore assembles a more diverse cast of characters, including goblins, which I don’t recall covering in any of the Shakespeare courses I took in college. And I’m pretty certain that if Shakespeare did have goblins who were willing to do sex acts in exchange for silver, I would remember them. Shoot, I don’t even think we dreamt those goblins up while playing Dungeons and Dragons as teenagers and we were teenage boys playing Dungeons and Dragons on Friday and Saturday nights in high school, which, I assure you, was not by choice.
“Shakespeare for Squirrels” as a story does lose its footing on occasion, but even Shakespeare had moments where you had to suspend disbelief and just make the narrative leap in hopes that the writing would bear you to safer shores. With Moore, the hope is that the writing will give you mirth in vast quantities and in that he delivers even if some of his better passages cannot be quoted in a family-friendly newspaper. And Pocket also concedes that pulling together the assembled characters for this denouement is not going to be easy:
“I confess, a wall of worry rises for even the most confident fool when he realizes that his plot for saving the day lies with three squirrels, a troupe of earnest nitwits, a donkey-headed weaver, a silver-thirsty goblin, a notoriously unreliable narrator, and a hat-shagging monkey. And the narrator and goblins hadn’t even arrived yet!”
As we try to fill empty hours of dread, we need books more than ever before. We need them as guides to safer passage. We need them to make us laugh in the face of the unknown. We need Christopher Moore.