Tuesday, January 4, 2011

It's still Tuesday here, dammit.

True to my word, I will be posting every Tuesday in 2011. And on Tuesdays like today, when I am caught totally unprepared, I'll do what I'm about to do, and post a book review. Or re-post from another blog if I find anything interesting/amusing/helpful. But generally, I'll be more awesome than that. Now, onto my review of . . . 

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bible by Jonathan Goldstein

first heard about this book on NPR, when Goldstein himself did a reading of the first chapter. His deadpan delivery compelled me to hunt down the book, and to my initial delight, his voice replaced the default voice in my head as I happily read. (Warning: this can be trying after awhile, which is probably why Wire Tap is only an hour long). 

I enjoyed this little gem as much as I expected to. It's a short collection of select Bible stories, concisely re-written to read kind of like episodes of I Love Lucy, with common next-door-neighbor traits being woven into the personalities of Biblical figures. Brilliant. Take Jacob's night-long wrestling match with an angel, for instance. Seriously? How ridiculous is that? Guy's trying to get some sleep in the desert, and a divine being blasts out of nowhere and starts totally pwning him. What had to be going through that poor guy's head? According to Goldstein, this: "'What kind of person punches an angel in the face? . . . This is the stupidest thing I've ever done in my life,' but then he was right back to inverted face-locking, camel-clutching, and mandible-clawing".

And the Angel of God commanded Jacob: "Stop hitting thyself, stop hitting thyself."
The Adam and Eve chapter was pitch-perfect and every bit as hilarious as I remembered from the radio reading. I especially enjoyed the portrayal of Noah as a kind of cranky Wonder Years Dad type, struggling to "keep it old-school", and Eve as a frustrated female trapped with . . . well, the only man on earth, who happens to be a total slob.

My only complaint is the David chapter, in which Goldstein's treatment of the human condition angle just falls flat. The author deals with pathos just as well as humor, and mostly it hits home. Jacob's believable discomfort with his mother's overt favoritism, and most memorably, Jonah's comparison of himself to a horse so unworthy of attention that no one even bothers to slaughter it. But I have no idea where Goldstein's going with this David stuff. The chapter, which paints David as a comedy-obsessed man who just can't pull off being funny, are cringe-worthy. We all know someone that tragically, chronically un-funny, and it hurts to read on and on about them when we'd rather be tee-heeing at circumcision jokes. Amiright?

Also: There's this out of nowhere post-modern ramble in which David fantasizes about Bathsheba's pinky toe . . . what the hell? Having spent many a youthful Sunday in the House of God, I had to struggle to recall the passage about King David (the creeper!) getting all excited from afar while watching the trimming of Bathsheba's toenails. So I get the angle the author's trying to spin here (how our potent human desire can lead to very strange yet meaningful dreams), but the whole thing flounders a bit.

In summation: I cannot help but think that a previous knowledge of both the Bible and Goldstein is tainting this review toward the positive, but I recommend it. Those reading LAGTB without the pleasure of having listened to Goldstein's Wire Tap on air may lose out, but give it a try. Jonah or the Garden of Eden story alone are well worth it. AMEN!
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And there you have it. The first post, and the first review, of 2011. 

Also, the first (and hopefully only?) survey of 2011! If you haven't already, tell me about your last book purchase, in 12 quick clicks! http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/WEB22BPDNJM8RK If you don't, an angel will shoot down from the sky and pile-drive you through the floor, newb.

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