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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
You can't judge a book by its cover, but what about its title? The same day that I finished Kai Bird's The Color of Truth, a masterpiece account of the JFK-era State Department, I found in my mailbox my next review assignment, a novel called The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Grove.
The...what? I thought. Still riveted by images of the major decisions behind the Vietnam War, I'm suddenly reading a comedic investigative mystery about a sea monster named Steve.
That's right, a sea monster.
Here's the first line of Chapter One: "As dead people went, Bess Leander smelled pretty good." See, Bess, a rather typical middle-class housewife, has seen fit to hang herself in her dining room. (Major plot point: Bess was previously being treated with antidepressants.) Shortly thereafter, I'm introduced to Theo, a local police chief who grows marijuana in his backyard; Molly, an over-the-hill psychotic scream queen who bites people when slighted; a tavern called The Head of the Slug; a pharmacist with a romantic proclivity for dolphins; and, to synopsize, a novel whose thematics revolve around...Prozac.
Now, let me try to write this review.
Pine Cove might be an ordinary California town, but Dr. Val Riordan, the local shrink, is hardly your ordinary psychiatrist. One day, she goes a bit off and decides that antidepressant drugs (like Prozac, Effexor, and Zoloft) actually cause depressed patients (like Bess Leander) to commit suicide. So she switches all of her patients' medications with useless sugar pills...neglecting, of course, to tell thepatients.Hence, the main catalyst of this novel.
Meanwhile, Theo, our perpetually stoned cop, can't help but notice the seemingly instantaneous upsurge of violence, crime, missing persons, and overall whacked-out behavior amongst the normally sedate populace. There also seems to be an upsurge in, uh, sexual behavior.
What's going on here?
Well, a lot. A minuscule leak of radioactive waste water from a nearby nuclear power plant revives a prehistoric sea monster. Named Steve. (Well, actually, it's the psychotic scream queen who names the sea beast, after her long-dead goldfish.) Anyway, Steve decides to slake his hunger (and, regrettably, his lust) on (you guessed it) the tranquil seaside town of Pine Cove. Why exactly has Steve decided to rear his brontosaurine head over Pine Cove?
Only the mysterious blues guitarist knows for sure....
Weird enough yet? The press release for this book describes it as "Godzilla" meets The Bridges of Madison County. I'd say that's a proper analogy. And as for weird book titles, here are some others by author Christopher Moore: Practical Demonkeeping, Bloodsucking Fiends, Island of the Sequined Love Nun. In addition to these titles, acclaimed Strip Tease author Carl Hiaasen describes Moore as "a very sick man," but "in the very best sense of the word." How's that for an endorsement!
See, Lust Lizard is a crazy book about crazy people in a crazy world. It's about the sheer abnormality of normalcy.
It's also about Prozac. And a sea monster named —
well, I've already been over that. Moore's creative result proves to be the weirdest novels I've ever read and also, easily, one of the funniest. The story has as many personalities as its characters have personality disorders. Part mystery, part postmodern fable, part hallucinotic comedy, Lust Lizard is about what might happen to "regular" people when they are divorced from the "regular" things in our society. No one's really regular to begin with, but that's Moore's point. There's more social allegory and encrypted symbolism in this book than you can shake a copy of Kafka's The Metamorphosis at. It's also so funny you'll be laughing yourself to tears. Lines like "I've never kissed a guy with assistant principal on his breath" and a scene in which a 75-foot sea monster tries to have intercourse with a gasoline truck are only the first lap of this erotomanic, pop-bizarro, off-the-wall psychotropic joyride.
Risking brain damage and likely schizophrenic episodes, I'm going to go back and read all of Moore's previous work, and as for the Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, don't miss it unless you want to miss what is thus far 1999's funniest and most uniquely entertaining novel.
Er, wait a minute. Maybe I didn't really read this book. Maybe it doesn't really exist.
Maybe somebody spiked my Prozac with LSD....
— Edward Lee