A Bright Moon for Fools
By Jasper Gibson
With Christmas nearly upon us, we got to mulling over appropriate seasonal posts. Perhaps something about a global warming Christmas? Or a more macabre how-a-public-terrorized-into-irrationality spends the holidays? Yet, nothing really good came to us. Thus, we took the easy road and chose a novel with the most tenuous link to Christmas you can imagine. That is, a main character with the surname of Christmas. At least it’s a comedy. Well, a black comedy, but a comedy nonetheless.
So, dear readers, meet Harry Christmas, a drunken fool of a fellow, dearer in his heart than he knows, a man on a mission to recapture the one joy of his shattered life, a spiritual reunion of sorts with his departed wife. You’ll find his adventure at once hilarious and off-putting, and in the end not a little bit heartbreaking.
Harry Christmas, who we meet arriving in Caracas, is a fat fellow, a bit on the ugly side, a man living his life, or at least the past seven years of it, pickled, alienated and alienating. He’s in Caracas as a waypoint in a journey to deliver the last remnant of his much-loved wife Emily to its final resting place in her hometown of Guiria in the state of Sucre. That last bit of Emily is Eugenio Montejo’s 1972 book of poetry, Muerte y Memoria, which he manages to hold on to through a multitude of tribulations until the very end.
His woes begin when he is robbed in Caracas. Even his fluency in Spanish can’t save him and he stumbles from one bruising situation to another, brutal but also funny, until he finds his way to the state of Sucre. There he discovers more than he bargained for, namely his soul and the chance at resurrection.
Concomitant with his quest, there’s another individual on his own quest. He is William Slade, the lunatic stepson of Diana, a woman Harry married, jilted, and stole money from. Slade, whose psychosis finds him pursued by, fearing, and talking to a cat named The General, wreaks havoc in his pursuit of Harry. He’s a nasty piece of work given to doing very nasty deeds.
This is British writer Jasper Gibson’s debut novel and it is a quite masterful bit of work. Perhaps it doesn’t end as you might hope it would, but then life, even fictional life, can be disappointing. Gibson renders Venezuela and its people strikingly, and clearly learned a lot living there and teaching English. File the novel under bittersweet humor with a cutting edge. w/c