Vincent van Gogh, at the heights of his powers, shot self with a gun he didn't own. Or did he? The Sacre Bleu, an iridescent blue color in most paintings by the Impressionists remains alluring and mysterious to art lovers. Would that hue have a common source, timeless and indefatigable? The creative spirit that paints, sculpts, writes, the hand that moves to create, does it belong to the one who muses or the Muse herself? Christopher Moore answers all these and some more in his inimitable style in Sacre Bleu
I watched Woody Allen's Oscar winning Midnight in Paris
a week before I read Sacre Bleu, the poster of which also used that
color blue! The Paris they both depict, a cauldron of creativity and culture, is inspiring and inviting. While the movie glorifies the city and its dwellers in the 1920s, the book is more expansive in its period. Both are positive and entertaining. Surprisingly, the book doesn't utilize the Surrealists of the 1920s -- introduced effectively by Woody Allen in Midnight... -- may be because they didn't use Sacre Bleu, or more to the context, didn't paint real life. Nevertheless, Moore's book has an all star line-up of painters and artists spanning several centuries. Should not reveal more to avoid spoilers, but I was reminded of Danny Ocean's (of Ocean's Eleven) comment, which goes something like: "I always get confused with Manet
; I know one of them is a painter and the other died of Syphilis." I also liked the way Oscar Wilde (and his creation The Picture of Dorian Gray) and Michelangelo are weaved into the main story. But that also prompts my crib. When Moore took a perspective to include sculptors and writers, persons involved in creative pursuits in fields other than painting, I expected him to give a scientist the same treatment as other Creators. Such a character is already there, begging to be 'mused' with all his eccentricities and ludicrous contraptions, in Professeur Bastard.
Don't expect a Coyote Blue
or anything that Chris has written earlier. The plot here is even more intriguing and the exploration of the 'what ifs', ambitious. The narrative is taut, the humor, as usual, whacky and sophisticated. In fact, the humour is underplayed (barring the penis fixation, but then it is after all our Chris). Moore's baker protagonist Lucien and family are also likable characters churning up lively banter and bread (with rats). Moore cites enough books and on-field research at the end that made the characters and Paris authentic. He glosses over the explanation for iridescent colors -- which I wouldn't hold against him. I liked the characterization of Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, present throughout the book as an ebullient, congenial drunkard of a painter, unlike the one-dimensional recluse portrayed in the movie Moulin Rouge
. Sacre Bleu, in my opinion, is the best work of fiction by Christopher Moore. And yes, I don't think Chris ruined Art for everyone. He has entertained it for me in radiant colors.