The best way I can describe Christopher Moore’s books is Supernatural comedy. I should also say that he is one of the very few writers who make me snort and laugh out loud. This is pretty useful if you happen to ride a lot of public transit. A few well placed guffaws, a snort or two and muttered repeating of the funniest lines pretty much guarantees one a private subway car.
The Twilight, Walking Dead, True Blood versions of the undead leave me cold, but there’s something about Moore’s slacker Vampires, Ikea bound zombies, and hapless heavenly beings that I find impossible to resist. I think it’s because while they may be immortal they are, in the end, pretty inept. The Stupidest Angel has become one of our holiday favorite reads right alongside How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Cajun Night Before Christmas. A caution, his language is salty, his characters earthy, and he delights in knocking down sacred cows so if you are easily offended you might be better off with the Twilight series.
Moore’s latest book, Sacre Bleu Comedy d’Art, is about murder, artists, the color blue, an immortal shape shifter or two, and at the bottom of it all a woman (but of course). In the Paris district of Montmarte Toulouse Lautrec and baker/painter Lucien Lessard team up to solve the murder of their friend Vincent Van Gough, and goofiness ensues. All the major impressionists, pointillist Georges Seurat, and American painter James McNeil Whistler put in an appearances. There are glimpses of the great music hall performers of Belle Époque Paris Aristide Bruant, Jane Avril and Loie Fuller as well as the demimonde. This isn’t a “serious” book about art (there’s a reading list at the end of the book for that), but it’s a great romp through Fin de siècle Paris that brings the artists behind iconic paintings to vivid life.
I had a wonderful time coming up with a play list for this book; the only problem was that it was about twenty-five songs too long. With that in mind, I left off a few of the more obvious choices like the Can-Can, Don McLean’s Vincent and anything from my very favorite Sondheim score, Sunday in the Park with George (I’m saving that one for another post). What’s left is a mix of old, new and new to me tunes. If you have a favorite song about art and artists post it in the comments section. I’ll select one comment at random to receive your own personal copy of Sacre Bleu.
Montmartre – Original Cast Recording Can-Can – A little scene setter from Cole Porter.
Le Chat Noir – Aristide Bruant – Bruant is best known as the man in the red scarf from many of Lautrec’s most famous posters. Before opening his own cabaret Le Mirliton in 1885 he was the headliner in Paris’ first cabaret, Le Chat Noir. Le Chat hosted some of the most illustrious names of the day Claude Debussy, Erik Satie, Jane Avril and Yvette Guilbert to name but a few. Today Le Chat is (heavy sigh) a modern boutique hotel.
Devil with the Blue Dress On/Good Golly Miss Molly – Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels. Cherchez La Femme, and this one happens to be just the tiniest bit…well…blue. Not in the sad sense but in tint.
When I Paint My Masterpiece – Emmylou Harris. Emmylou covers Dylan.
Sous Le Ciel de Paris – Edith Piaf – Because you can’t ever have a playlist for a story set in Paris without an Edith Piaf number, no matter what era.
Turbulent Indigo – Joni Mitchell – Great art often comes from great turmoil and there’s always a price.
Paul Cezanne – Five Chinese Brothers – Why? 1.) Their French accent is tres worse than mine (one of the rare times I still have a southern accent is when I speak French.). 2.) They rhyme oeuvre with Louvre & 3.) this song makes me giggle.
The Art Teacher – Rufus Wainwright – Another tune about the costs we pay for the choices we make.
Paul Gauguin in the South Seas – Jimmy Webb – I saw Jimmy Webb in concert a few months ago. He played many of my favorite songs, but not this one. I wish he had.
Hymne á L’amour – Edith Piaf – Because two Piafs are better than one, and I couldn’t chose between two songs that I love so much.