Friday, 3 October 2014
What I've been Reading: The Thirteen and a Half Lives of Captain Bluebear
It was strange.
And, actually, quite a lot of fun. It takes the shape of a series of very tall tales, each piling absurdity on to fabrication until some part of your mind just goes, "You know what? I can live with this." And after that, it's a pretty smooth ride, even when the narrative comes blundering through the fourth wall with all the subtlety of a tractor on amphetamines (I don't deal in spoilers - I will simply say, "Congladitorial Duel".)
It has swash and buckle in reasonable quantities, bizarre coincidences in spadefuls and so much deux ex Machina that Moers names a character after it. Plus, it tells you what really happened to Atlantis.
I'll be honest. This is not a book to be undertaken lightly - it will eat a good month out of your reading schedule. And, in the main, it isn't really a novel in the conventional, modern sense of the word. It's an exercise in creativity, in verbal dexterity, in performative storytelling.
I've encountered a lot of discussion as to whether it's a children's book or not, but that isn't really relevant. It's a book for a certain type of person. Personally, as a child, I would have found the book high-handed and frustrating - but that does not mean it isn't suitable to children. As a teenager, I would been put off by the illustrations, the fact the protagonist is a bear of middling size (I was pretentious as hell)... But other teenagers may well enjoy the satire of it. As an adult, I thought it was a brilliant laugh.
Yes, I have issues with it (the characters are all rather shallow, there are so few women in it...) but I'm finally the kind of person who will pull up a stall and let Captain Bluebear tell me all about the cinnamon and wood-smoke smell of adventure.