(Host) Commentator Jules Older is in love with a book about… well, here’s a hint: What’s 50 feet long, wider than a bus and weighs 80,000 pounds?
(Older) How rare it is. How rare it is to really go nuts over a book. Not like it, not appreciate it, not “admire its craftpersonlike skill.” No, I mean go ape. Or in this case, whale.
I’ve just had that rare experience.
Remember HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY? That BBC radio series, slash-TV series, slash-book, all by Douglas Adams? Hitchhiker’s Guide was about a rather puzzled Englishman named Arthur Dent who quite unexpectedly finds himself hurtling through the…galaxy.
Well, I’ve found the American Douglas Adams, and the sequel to Hitchhiker’s Guide… if Hitchhiker were set in Hawaii. And the adventures took place underwater, not in outer space. Meet author Christopher Moore and his totally delightful book (and audio tape) FLUKE.
I haven’t been this excited about a book since Neal Stephenson’s SNOW CRASH. I haven’t laughed so hard since Dave Barry’s BIG TROUBLE.
Only thing is, I can’t… tell you too much about it, since one of FLUKE’S greatest pleasures is its never-ending surprises. Friends don’t tell friends surprises in advance.
Here’s what I can say. Nathan has spent most of his adult life recording the songs of humpback whales. This summer he’s joined by Amy, a pretty (and pretty wacky) research assistant. He’s also hired a dreadlocked, ganga-smoking Hawaiian Brudda and Rastafarian, Kona… who started life as a Jewish kid from New Jersey.
Here’s how the book opens:
“Amy called the whale punkin.
“He was 50-feet long, wider than a city bus, and weighed eighty thousand pounds. One slap of his great tail would reduce the boat to splinters and its occupants to red stains drifting in the blue Hawaiian waters. Amy leaned over the side of the boat and lowered the hydrophone down on the whale. ‘Good morning, punkin,’ she said.
“Nathan Quinn shook his head and tried not to upchuck from the cuteness of it…”
Now, I’m not going to say another word about the book, but let me tell you something about the author.
Christopher Moore comes from Ohio, the son of a highway patrolman and a department store clerk. One day… “My father announced that if I wanted to drive when I was sixteen I had better get a job. So I got a job. A bunch of jobs.
“I worked as a roofer, a factory worker, photographer, disk jockey, journalist, motel clerk, and a waiter. All of a sudden I was thirty. I had a car, but I was thirty. Thirty with a pretty good drinking problem.
“So I thought I better write a book. I quit drinking and started writing. A year later I finished PRACTICAL DEMONKEEPING. Soon people were asking me when the next one was due. I figured it took me 32 years to do the first one, I should have the second one done sometime around the year 2023.”
Now, fortunately for us, Moore underestimated the time lag. FLUKE is his seventh book. Let’s hope it’s not his last.
This is Jules Older in Albany, Vermont, the Soul of the Kingdom.
Jules Older is the author of more than 20 books for children and adults. He spoke from our studio in Montpelier.