Zen for Ten 36: Beethoven and Lamb

Welcome back to the blog! This week’s post is a little different. I love featuring the work of my literary-fiction colleagues, and look forward to going back to that for our next post, but this week we’re taking a step into comic fantasy.


Along with Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, Christopher Moore is one of my go-to writers. His books are breathtakingly bizarre, funny, complex, and potent in the best ways. I love writers who can make me laugh and make me think. With Moore, the “thinking” part often comes as an unexpected punch in the gut after you’ve spent a page or so cracking up. It’s a masterful balancing act and I love it.

Lamb, which I’m featuring in this week’s post, is probably my single favorite Moore book (if I had to pick one). When I first ran across it, I wasn’t sure if I should take a look. It’s a retelling of the story of Jesus of Nazareth from the perspective of “Levi who is called Biff,” the apostle whose voice got left out of the Gospels, and who introduces himself as “Joshua’s” (Christ’s) best friend. I was baptized Catholic, grew up Presbyterian, and currently work as a church choir director. Religion and I have had a rather complex relationship over the years, but when I first picked up Lamb, I wasn’t at all sure what I’d think of an irreverent retelling of the Bible stories I grew up with.

The experience turned out to be surprising. Lamb is full of the humor that characterizes Moore, but in spite of – and often because of – the many laughs in it, it’s powerful, often beautiful, and startlingly resonant. Joshua of Nazareth emerges as an authentic, compelling, conflicted character. When I was growing up, I heard the Passion story countless times, but Moore’s retelling of it hit me viscerally, in a way I’d never experienced before.

Lamb is my current inspiration- and encouragement-source as I (try to) dig into a fantasy project of my own. The excerpts in the video below are taken from Part IV, in which Joshua and Biff have gone to India to meet Melchior, one of the magi who followed the star to Bethlehem. Joshua is looking for guidance on how to be the Messiah, and Biff (who is a lot less spiritually minded) is trying not to get in the way too much. I love this part for the dialogues between Joshua and Biff and for that particular mix of humor and wisdom that makes this book what it is.

I’ve paired the reading with the second movement of Beethoven’s Sonata Op. 10 No. 1. The structure of the music complements the structure of the dialogues, and Beethoven’s mood here is gentle and serious but not too solemn. I’d thought it might be hard to pick a musical pairing for this particular writing, but the words and music ended up dovetailing perfectly. (I also thought that Beethoven, who had a sense of humor of his own, would have appreciated it.)

Please enjoy the video. As always, thank you for visiting the blog!


beethoven lamb
sighted on my piano


Writers! Would you like to contribute your work for the Storytelling and Sound series? (You provide the words, I provide the live reading and the music.) Email me at kris@krisfaatz.com for info.

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Storytelling and Sound fans: if you haven’t done it yet, don’t forget to check out music-inspired To Love A Stranger!


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