When I was about halfway through Christopher Moore’s A Dirty Job I had to go on Amazon to check the other reviews to see if anyone else was bothered by what I was, i.e. the rampant casual racism/sexism. Out of the eleven one-star reviews and however-many two-star ones, I only saw one that mentioned my concerns, so maybe I’m blowing that aspect out of proportion. In fact, I think he may even have written a sequel. But in his attempts to include “jokes” and “quirky characters,” the author uses frequent references to offensive stereotypes of: Asian people (“they can’t pronounce the letter ‘R’!” “They eat dogs!”), Russians (“they say everything is ‘like bear’ and eat borscht all the time!), black people (they style themselves like “pimps” and speak “ghetto”!), Jews (“Yiddish jokes!” “archaic beliefs bordering on mysticism!”), trans people (they try to fool straight men into being in a relationship with them by pretending to be cisgender females!) and women (one character literally refers to a certain demographic of women as “fuck puppets” and this term is repeated about a billion times). I might be missing some, it was difficult to keep track. I checked and no, this book was not written prior to 1970.
I picked this book up because I read The Stupidest Angel earlier in the year and loved it; it was my first Christopher Moore so I decided to pick up another by him. This story follows Charlie Asher, a neurotic who owns a second-hand store. At the start he’s in the delivery room with his wife, who just had their first daughter. Charlie leaves the room, and when he comes back his wife has died and there’s a strange black man standing in the room who is concerned that Charlie can see him. This kicks Charlie off on his new life as a “death merchant,” where he is required to collect “soul vessels” from people who have recently passed in order to help their souls move on. It’s never explained why Charlie becomes a death merchant or how the merchants are picked, he just sees one collecting his wife’s soul and whamo! he becomes one. Soon after he gets started in his new job, monsters start emerging from the sewers to hassle Charlie and threaten his daughter. Charlie has to figure out who the monsters are and what they want before it’s too late. Also, there’s a kind of mystery about who “the Luminatus” is and it was so obvious I thought it was being used as a red herring or wasn’t actually intended to be a mystery to anyone but the dense protagonist, but no…it was every bit as obvious as it was presented.
I’ll credit the book with this: the story itself was original. I didn’t even wholly dislike the neurotic main character, and his daughter was adorable. And there were two hellhounds and dogs make everything better. I just think it was totally weighed down by all the offensive jokes. I like my humor clever, not close-minded.