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Friday, January 8, 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bible

goldstein ladies and gentlemen the bible book reviewLadies and Gentlemen, The Bible
by Jonathan Goldstein

Having enjoyed glimpses of Jonathan Goldstein's unique brand of humor in This American Life on OPB radio, I expected his book, Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bible, to be a rather irreverent but refreshing take on tales from The Old Testament.

No doubt the book could come across as offensive, as things usually do when dealing with controversial topics like religion. But, having read the tales from the Old Testament when I was young, I jumped at the opportunity to read Goldstein's take on them when my mum-in-law gave the book to us recently. (Thanks for the book, Mom, I beat your son to it!)

I admit, I love mythology. I am fascinated by mythological tales. Now, as to whether the bible is considered a mythology or not is a separate issue. Nevertheless, tales from the bible inspired awe in my young Convent School mind and since then they've managed to hold a certain fascination that leans towards academic than religious.

Early on in this exploration, with Adam and Eve, we encounter God as not the benevolent, all-encompassing, doting father-figure we've grown to love, but as a rather lonely mad genius trying to fill the void in his existence. This immediately set the tone for the book for me, making His progression to quite the short-tempered despot who gets increasingly demanding and unmerciful rather acceptable.

Just about every tale, be it Cain and Abel, Noah and his Ark, Jacob and Esau, Samson and Delilah, King David (and Goliath) touches upon the questions we want to ask, but dare not ask for fear of either offending someone or invoking their wrath.

Parts of the book were laugh-out-loud funny. Parts of it were witty and insightful. And, parts of it were fairly run-of-the-mill interpretations and imaginings of the back-story, barely scratching the surface, sometimes rambling, sometimes obtuse... left me feeling like I have just watched a Seinfeld stand-up routine where he beats a dead horse to pulp and then some more.

Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed the book!

It is a pleasant read, exploring the biblical tales through the interesting perspectives of the lesser known characters, as well as through curious ponderings like Adam's grandchildren rubbing Adam's belly and asking what happened to his belly button, and, Vito's concern for his Whale-obsessed brother Jonah...

I liked the abrupt ending with the entry into the New Testament with the witty look from Joseph's perspective: "My Troubles: A Work in Progress, by Joseph of N--."

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