41 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Entertaining Than Catch 22
If Heller had written Catch 22 with the same kind of easy style he exhibits in God Knows, then I might too be among those rabid Yosarian fans who claim it one of the best books in the damn universe. But it wasn't, and anyway, this review is about God Knows. There are many novels out there that make me smile and/or chuckle, but God Knows is one of the few that made me...
Published on July 1, 2000 by randytheviking
3.0 out of 5 stars A Liitle Boring
This was a disappointing book. It was long on sex and short on being a gripping read. Maybe its me, but I thought it was boring, a slog.
Published 1 month ago by S. M. Shapero
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41 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Entertaining Than Catch 22,
This review is from: God Knows (Paperback)If Heller had written Catch 22 with the same kind of easy style he exhibits in God Knows, then I might too be among those rabid Yosarian fans who claim it one of the best books in the damn universe. But it wasn't, and anyway, this review is about God Knows. There are many novels out there that make me smile and/or chuckle, but God Knows is one of the few that made me laugh out loud in several places. Read it if only for the passage with the lisps. You'll know what I mean when you get there. And I like the original treatment of Kind David, making him more human than divine. I normally avoid speculating on what the author was thinking or trying to do with a character, but given Heller's treatment of David's sense of time and the way David constantly claims credit for contemporary work, I kept thinking of him as a paranoid/neurotic in a mental ward somewhere imagining himself as David. Next time I'm at a seance I'll ask Heller if that was the case. But mental patient or not, the style still worked for me. Now some petty critiques: for such a build up regarding Solomon and his brother, the pay off was small to non-existent. The reader knows all along what happened with Solomon, and the expected fireworks never appeared. Fizzled even. And Heller (or a competent editor) could have or should have cut out about forty pages worth of redundancy. But there's so much entertainment here that, unless you're an easily offended pious type who can't take a little good natured blasphemy (stay away from that not helpful button, you) I enthusiastically recommend the book.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Blasphemy at its most hilarous and biting,
This review is from: God Knows (Paperback)Although I would not say that this book is entirely on the level of Heller's first three books (all masterpieces), as it does not, perhaps, resonate with the vibrancy and poignancy of everyday life as those works do, God Knows is nevertheless an entertaining, blasphemous, and laugh-out-loud hilarous Bibilical parody. Many an author has turned their skills to the task of setting a famous Bibilical character into the universe of modern literature and re-telling their story that way, but few have done it with the intelligence, wit, and sheer knowledge of Heller. This is the work of a man that, though perhaps a Jewish atheist (I'm not too sure of what Heller's religious views were), nevertheless clearly had a vast and perhaps encyclopedic knowledge of the Bible - or the Old Testament, at any rate. Here, we have the story of King David ("the best story in The Bible", as the narrarator himself repeatedly tells us), told through Heller's first-person satiric lens, casting the famous and mythical character straight into the pantheon of modern literature. Many may well consider this book blasphemous (although I am glad, and pleasantly surprised, indeed, to see in some of the other reviews here that members of the clergy have read and enjoyed it), it is all in good fun, and quite an entertaining read - as well as also hitting home at several points. Although there are several laugh-out-loud segments, Heller, beneath the farce, is also asking existential questions, as well as tackling some complex moral issues: God's apparent inclination towards punishing the innocent for the crimes of the guilty is given a good bit of attention here. Although this book may well have some sort of a built-in audience due to it's Bibilical leanings, it probably does not have a more or less universal audience as his first three books did - being steeped heavily, as it is, in its subject matter. I think that you will enjoy the book a lot more, and will certainly find it funnier, if you are familar with The Bible - or at least the parts that it deals with. Indeed, if you are highly steeped in Bibilical subject matter, you may well consider this Heller's best book. I reccommend it regardles, however: even if you are not knowledgable with its inherent subject matter, you will still find the book enjoyable, especially if you are a fan of Heller's particular style and liked his other writings.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pull Out Your Bible and GIGGLE!!,
This review is from: God Knows (Paperback)In what can only be called the shear GENIUS of Joseph Heller, God Knows crosses the line between biblical irony and just plain FUN!! As a member of the clergy I found this book a refreshing and oftentimes TOO POIGNANT look at one of the greatest biblical heroes! Heller breathes life and REALITY into a character of mythical proportions. . . just in time to remind us that we are all HUMANS and a part of God's work. I am sorry for those Catch-22 fans that cannot let go of their IDOL WORSHIP for Joseph Heller. They are missing out on good writing and some downhome chuckles. . . GO FIGURE!!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What's Heller up to?,
This review is from: God Knows (Paperback)Sometimes King David narrates his own story; sometimes, a modern omniscient narrator is in charge. Both use proverbs extant in each other's time. Manipulating point-of-view & time is fun; but it's a fine line between proverb & cliche, and both narrators cross it. Their anachronisms are confusing, impertinent & self-gratifying, making the book about twenty per cent longer than need be. Cliches pose as proverbs, stories repeat, and David never understands that he's projecting guilt onto God to avoid blaming himself. Still, the book is ABOUT something--Jewishness--just as "Catch-22" is about war, "Something Happened" is about democracy becoming Corporatism, and "Good as Gold" is about Corporatism becoming Fascism. Heller's nihilism is less manic than in his earlier novels, but dominates, as usual. And as usual, the text is carefully written and edited. But it's not style or method that makes this a great novel; it's Heller looping around his own core, making connections as he disgorges everything he knows about his subject. So what if the book indulges the author, pays no attention to the reader, and parodies Zionism while exploring its roots? It's funny, pertinent, masterful & dark--a unique historical novel. There's nothing like it, except Ken Keysey's "The Last Roundup," maybe.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully intriguing,
By A Customer
This review is from: God Knows (Paperback)I had to try hard to keep myself from giving in to my initial reaction of, "that's blasphemous!" many times in the book. On further inspection I always tended to see a very different picture than the surface would seem to describe. Instead of the borderline heretical picture of David that a 20th Century Christian might get without good study, I found an interesting character who actually strengthened my personal faith in a number of ways. The honest portrayal of David as a person who really has some issues with his God, but deep down really still has the requisite faith struck a chord as being very relevant to me and to most modern-day readers who may struggle with religion in todays society.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 4.5 stars. One of the funniest "religious" books out there,
This review is from: God Knows (Paperback)Heller is masterful breathing life into the well-known story of King David. Clearly, Heller has a scholar's knowledge of the Old Testament adding wit, sex, drama, and laughs to David's life. Those familiar with the stories in the bible will get the most out of this retelling of a biblical classic.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth Your Time!,
This review is from: God Knows (Paperback)This novel, a retelling of the life story of King David in the first person, is vintage Joseph Heller. With the wit and precision of "Catch-22" and "Something Happened," it attacks the knotty problems of identity and responsibility, flips all the Bible stories you've ever heard on their heads, and draws an intricate portrait of a Jewish king with a strut.
Heller mixes the biblical with the modern with a swooping, natural style. It's staggering, and it's hilarious. I'm sure that, had he chosen to stick with the Biblical and depict the ancient setting as--well--ancient, this would be a much different novel, one that would speak to the timelessness of human emotion and all that. As it stands, what we have is a neurotic, almost postmodern look at the life of a king who's fought to gain and to keep his position. It's steamy (Bathsheba, the love of David's life, is drawn intimately and intensely, as is his newest wife, who attends to him in the illness that prompts him to record his memoir), loving (the relationships of David to his assorted wives and progeny sprawl across the pages in a way that suggests a much larger book, but somehow fits perfectly into this novel of modest size), and honest (David is proud and vain beyond tolerance, but somehow the reader comes away loving him anyway, particularly since his thoughts ring true).
Lest you worry that this is simply an adaptation, interesting only in relationship to the original story, it's not necessary that the reader be familiar with the Bible to appreciate this book. I recognized many of the stories and characters, but far from all of them--Heller's knowledge of the Bible and of the conventional telling of the stories is, as far as I can see, impeccable.
This novel is, more or less, a riot (if nothing else, there's a lot of smiting, and that's a funny word), but it runs deep, approaching many of the themes that are so relevant and present today. The ideas of connection versus alienation, of love, of intimacy and frustration, are all worked over by the narrative, which runs far afield at times but always comes back leaving the reader happier for having followed the tangent. Although this work is more obscure than the ever-popular (and rightly so) "Catch-22," it's no less intelligent and engaging. Pick up a copy! Another book I need to recommend -- completely unrelated to Heller, but very much on my mind since I purchased a "used" copy off Amazon is "The Losers' Club" by Richard Perez, an exceptional, highly entertaining little novel I can't stop thinking about.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterful Reimagining,
This review is from: God Knows (Paperback)The David story is, arguably, the best-known story in the world. Tackling it is an act of supreme chutzpah. Joseph Heller, as always, fails to disappoint.
It's a crime and a sin that Heller never won the Pulitzer Prize. He should have, many times over, if for no other reason than his body of work clearly shows that humor can be just as effective a statement on the human condition as something that makes you want to slash your wrists. "God Knows" is a breathtaking take on the maddeningly complicated and all too human life of King David. Heller brings King David, in all his complexity, to life as no one else ever has. David, in his dotage, is here in all facets of his character--the adulterer, murderer, consummate politician, cranky and disappointed Jewish father, and one-time confidant of God.
The book is a jaw-dropping accomplishment on a hundred different levels. It's a classic work of humor, damn fine erotica, and where Heller got the audacity to interweave David's story from a perspective that uses time the way Escher used space (David kvetches about his statue by Michelangelo, continually rails against that second-rate hack William Shakespeare, sighs about there being no amniocentesis when Abigail was pregnant with Chileab, and refuses to buy Bathsheba a word processor), God knows.
But the real accomplishment of God Knows is that it illustrates just how timeless the really great stories are. David's story has as much to say about the human condition today as it did in 1000 B.C.--but it takes a genius to show us how. Fortunately, Heller was a genius.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A humorous and ingenious approach to a revered biblical tale.,
This review is from: God Knows (Paperback)`God Knows' is quintessential Heller. Perhaps that is all you need to know if you are wondering if you should buy this book.
Despite the considerable shadow of `Catch 22' being forever cast over his life and subsequent works, `God Knows' deserves to stand by itself for its witty and hugely original approach.
The premise of the novel involves a fictional twist of the life of the biblical figure King David (that is, the David who beat Goliath and went on to become King of Israel).
Heller shows this holy, reverential figure in a new light, with the reader confronted by an arrogant, cocky and jaded figure retelling his life as he procrastinates over choosing an heir he knows he will have no faith in. Yet despite David's arrogance, Heller manages to draw the reader to feel a close bond with the protagonist, much like he did with 'Catch 22', 'Something Happened' and 'Good as Gold' (all novels with vastly different lead characters).
What makes this book so endearing is the satirical expansion of what was a serious and humorless subject matter. Whether it's David boldly swaggering through the terrified Israeli ranks of soldiers towards Goliath, the young teenager proclaiming his imminent victory over the giant; or as David critically rates which of his numerous; the reader is drawn to this enthralling character. For all of David's arrogance, captured by statements like `I am David, not Oedipus, and I would have broken destiny to bits.', and `Destiny is a good thing to accept when it's going your way. When it isn't, don't call it destiny; call it injustice, treachery, or simple bad luck,' there are still numerous moments where David speaks sincerely to the reader, candidly opening up about the loss of his first born, his subsequent rage at God, and his numerous attempts to win the love of his father figure, King Saul, despite Saul's frequent, violent rebuffs. Underneath the charismatic and proud exterior, there is a tormented man. And as David muses over what his greatest achievement has been as the book nears its climax, the reader cannot help but feel that David's greatest achievement has been to present such an honest account of his life story.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book - truly shows Heller's genius.,
By A Customer
This review is from: God Knows (Paperback)I wouldn't say this book was as good as Catch-22, but it is close. I prefer this telling of the story of David over the one in the Bible. Reading this novel, I felt like I knew King David, and I hated finishing it because I felt like i had lost a friend. It is funny and very moving, the best of Heller.
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God Knows by Joseph Heller (Paperback - November 12, 1997)