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Christopher Moore: The Lust Lizard Of Melancholy Cove

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With self-consciously cheesy titles like Island Of The Sequined Love Nun and Bloodsucking Freaks, and a predilection for inept demons, vampires, and radioactivity-loving monsters, Christopher Moore seems to be courting the sort of B-movie fans who now revel in the minor resurgence of giant-apes-running-amok movies. But Moore's sense of humor is more cute than cult: His facile, twisted comic novels have gotten smoother and more blithe over the years, to the point at which The Lust Lizard Of Melancholy Cove, his latest visit to touristy Pine Cove, California, feels like a Reader's Digest reinterpretation of a Tom Robbins novel. Pine Cove is a Tim Burton-meets-Garrison Keillor community crammed with exaggeratedly colorful characters and buried emotional problems. When an obsessive-compulsive housewife commits suicide, Pine Cove's psychiatrist decides that it's irresponsible to keep arbitrarily cramming Prozac into all her patients, so she blackmails the local pharmacist into secretly replacing everyone's meds with placebos. The resultant wave of depression and the sudden resurgence of everyone's sex drive is exacerbated by the invasion of a huge, horny, psychic sea creature, which wanders into town, humps a fuel truck to death, befriends a borderline-schizoid former exploitation-film queen, and starts eating people. The Pine Cove natives, including a befuddled pothead constable, a bemused rat-chasing biologist, and an irritatingly stereotyped imported bluesman, spout one-liners through their attempts to deal with the town's newest inexplicable quirks. Moore has a few offhand points to make about evolution, humans' basic similarities to animals, and modern pill-based psychoanalysis, but mostly he seems to just enjoy elaborate shaggy-dog stories packed with punchlines and mildly absurdist, good-natured humor. Lust Lizard is forgettable but funny enough, even if it's more likely to appeal to Dave Barry fans than midnight-movie fanatics.