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Wednesday, April 30,2014

Schuler vs. Schuler

Chelsea Handler in Okemos, Christopher Moore in Eastwood on Saturday

by Bill Castanier
A funny thing happened on the way to the book signing. Chelsea Handler, comedian, author and late night talk show host, and Christopher Moore, author of 13 comedic novels, have been scheduled for stops in the Lansing area on the same day and time — 2 p.m. Saturday — at both local Schuler Books & Music locations. Moore will speak and sign books at Eastwood Towne Center and Handler will sign at Meridian Mall. Schuler is taking this literary meteor shower in stride and expects both events to be packed with standing room only for fans of these New York Times best-selling authors.

When Rhoda Wolff, manager of the Eastwood Schuler, took the call from Handler’s handlers requesting the Saturday slot, she said there was no way she was about to tell them no. Knowing that Moore’s folks had already booked Eastwood, she directed them to Okemos and the head-to-head was on. Both in-store appearances are ticketed events, free with a book purchase. Tickets allow a prime place in line.

Handler will most likely draw young women who enjoy her raw barroom humor, while Moore’s audience will be probably consist of male readers who love his comic fantasy.

Moore cut his teeth on writing ribald humor about supernatural and absurdist fiction, including the “Love Story” trilogy ( “ Bloodsucking Fiends,” “You Suck” and “Bite Me”), but in 2009 he got Shakespearean with “Fool,” a comedic look at “King Lear” as told by the play’s jester, Pocket. In his newest book, “The Serpent of Venice,” Moore revisits Pocket, and puts him at the mercy of antagonists from other Shakespeare plays, with a dash of Edgar Allan Poe for good measure.

As the book opens, another crusade is about to begin. Although this is comic fantasy and not political satire, there are crossovers even a fool could not miss.

“The Venetians were the Halliburtons of their day,” Moore said. “The parallels are not accidental coincidences. The Venetians made a fortune outfitting war.”

He said you can “easily recognize” characters like Karl Rove and Sarah Palin in his work. No topic is sacred, not even the Pope. In one section, the fool’s spouse asks him to visit Venice and intercede to stop the next “holy war,” prompting this witty exchange:

“But lamb, sending a fool to the Pope — ” “Oh, bugger the Pope!” “I think he already has someone to do that.”

Moore assures readers they do not have to have read Shakespeare to enjoy his books, but some knowledge of the Bard makes “Fool” and the “Serpent of Venice” more enjoyable. There are many codpiece jokes, sexual entanglements, gruesome deaths, ghosts and surprise parental revelations. As a fool, Pocket can say anything he wants, at anytime and to anyone — sort of like Handler. Also, like Handler, his sexual libido knows no bounds, and he beds a few “shagalicious princess.”

Wolff said, “Chelsea Handler says things we all want to say, but can’t get away with.” In Handler’s new travel memoir, “Uganda be Kidding Me,” she packs up a bunch of like minded friends and toddles off on an African safari. This being Handler, the trip naturally descends into non-stop drinking, carousing and general bathroom humor. No animals were killed in writing this book; the only trophy is “the big man” Handler beds after being rejected by her tour guide.

The reader is rewarded with color photos of Handler and her friends, including one that showcases Handler’s bare ass hanging out of the window of her Jeep. No, Handler wasn’t mooning a lion; she just had to pee. She later contracts diarrhea and sullies her bikini in public.

Handler has been criticized for her use of racial humor, and she crosses the line several times in “Uganda”: The group toasts the first black person they see, one chapter is titled “Mount a Negro” and when asked why she’s going on an safari she replies, “I want to know where rappers’ names come from.”

Handler does counter with funny riffs on the Kardashian girls and cute quips about safari life, which she describes as “Jurassic Park with room service.” Later, in a fine twist of the tongue, she writes that she loved her twin bed, saying “it was like sleeping in a marshmallow surrounded by mosquito netting.”

Hey, no one said this is Teddy Roosevelt’s African Safari.

Chelsea Handler

2 p.m. Saturday, May 3 Schuler Books & Music- Meridian Mall

1982 Grand River Ave., Okemos

(517) 349-8840

Christopher Moore

2 p.m. Saturday, May 3 Schuler Books & Music- Eastwood

2820 Towne Center Blvd., Lansing Twp. (517) 316-7495 schulerbooks.com

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