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The Life of David (Jewish Encounters) Paperback – August 26, 2008


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Product Details

  • Series: Jewish Encounters
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Schocken; Reprint edition (August 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805211535
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805211535
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #261,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Emphasizing biographies of Jewish luminaries but also including books on Jewish themes, the new Jewish Encounters series aims to satisfy the interest in popular and intelligent books on Jewish subjects. The inaugural book in this commendable venture is a well-executed biography of David, written by Pinsky, former poet laureate of the United States. His poetic language is singularly appropriate for recounting the life of the king who is traditionally accepted as the author of the poetic psalms, some of which are included in the narrative. Pinsky's broad scope is reflected in his references to Greek literature, Shakespeare, Dante, Simone Weil, Talmudists and Robert Frost, among others. He acknowledges his indebtedness to Robert Alter, whose definitive book The David Story appeared in 1999, but fails to mention recent biographies by Steven McKenzie, Baruch Halpern and Gary Greenberg. His primary sources are the actual biblical texts that recount David's life. Pinsky dispels the conventional image of David as a simple shepherd who slew Goliath and became Israel's greatest king, depicting him realistically with all his failings as an adulterer, assassin and predator. Pinsky also portrays David's stellar achievements, presenting him as a complex character who deserves to be seen in shades of gray. (Sept. 20)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Renowned poet, critic, translator of Dante's The Inferno, and former U.S. poet laureate, Pinsky brings his learnedness, literary finesse, and flair for vigorous interpretation to a vibrant and imaginative portrait of David, the biblical warrior, poet, king, and, according to Pinsky, wise guy. In shimmering, metaphor-rich prose, Pinsky considers the peculiarities, paradoxes, and timeless significance of David's often baffling story from his golden days as a handsome upstart confronting King Saul in "gangsterish" encounters to David's wild years as a desert Robin Hood and ascension to the throne. Observing that David's indelible story of daring, desire, power, and survival would fit right into Homer and Shakespeare, Pinsky is especially discerning in his portrayals of strong and strategic women, including Michal, with whom David shared equally intense love and hate, and Bathsheba, mother of Solomon. Witty, frank, skeptical, and clearly moved by mercurial David's chutzpah and losses, Pinsky brings remarkable lucidity, depth, and creativity to his dynamic and poetic reading of a legendary figure who has become emblematic of both destructive and heroic aspects of human nature. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Although written in prose, the book has a poetical style that is perfectly matched to the content.
Murray I. Suid
To call the prose of a former laureate poetic may seem odd, but one must consider how well Pinsky textures his words.
J. A Magill
It is also a story about a king who somehow forges of disparate clans a nation of Judah and Israel.
Inna Tysoe

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Gerard D. Launay on November 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This latest by Robert Pinsky is perhaps his best work. The author's goal is to understand the complex, paradoxical life of David, not to deconstruct David according to post-modern analysis, biblical hermeneutics, or text-criticism. It's a lovely book to read since its subject is actually Pinsky's love affair with the biblical portrayal of David. As others have loved David, despite his faults, so too does the author.

Part of the charm of this volume is Pinsky's luxurious prose. Thus, for example, the author comments on David's lament when David learns that his general Abner has been murdered: "Where the lament for Saul and Jonathan is like a fountain, this poem is like an engraved amulet, implicit and enigmatic, where the earlier dirge is full-throated. A lament for one who is betrayed rather than one who falls in battle..."

If the reader is looking for analysis of what the Bible "means",
this is not the book for you. For those who have always been
irresistibly attracted to the Bible's poetry and want to find a soulmate, this is a volume to read and treasure.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By J. A Magill TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Reading Robert Pinsky's work, one finds great difficulty placing the book in any particular genre. Biographic analysis of biblical characters seems something of a rage at the moment, some excellent, some not. "The Life of David," however, does not fit well with the genre. Unlike the Biblical scholar Baruch Halperin's brilliant "David's Secret Demons" Pinsky eschews footnotes or deep textual analysis. Instead, taking a poet's view, we see here a sort of emotional/artistic portrait of this most complex of biblical characters. Some may find frustrating the way the author moves over the story often moving down strange tangents only to circle back later.

To call the prose of a former laureate poetic may seem odd, but one must consider how well Pinsky textures his words. Perhaps given David's own poetic nature, only one who shared his great love of language could bring the King of Israel to life. While the trip may on occasion grow strange, those who wish to deepen their understanding of King David will find much here to give food for thought.
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Format: Paperback
Was King David pious? Was he a holy man who was divinely inspired to compose the biblical book of Psalms, the charismatic ideal leader whose offspring would never cease to lead Israel because he was so good, whose descendant would be the messiah who would save the world, a man chosen because of David's praiseworthy behavior? Or was he, like all men and women, sometimes good, sometimes ruthless, sometimes embarrassingly bad? Did he commit adultery with Bat Sheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite and have Uriah murdered, as the prophet Nathan berated him? Did he raise children who killed their brothers, one of whom raped his sister, and at least one of whom, Solomon, built temples for idol worship? Was he responsible for the death of his infant child when it was born and for the death of tens of thousands of his people in a plague?

Or, as the majority of people claim, did he do no wrong. Did Bat Sheba have a divorce decree that made David's liaison with her legal, and besides, did Uriah force David to give him Bat Sheba as a wife by blackmailing him when he was killing the giant Goliath, and therefore the marriage was illegal, as the Talmud contends? Robert Pinsky portrays David as a human being as the plain meaning of the biblical text in this beautifully written, lyrical, presentation of his life.

Pinsky is not alone in seeing the human fault-filled David. Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz in his Biblical Images tells his readers that they shouldn't expect an idealized portrayal of biblical figures because: "The great men and women who serve as examples and models for all generations are not described only in terms of glowing admiration. Their failings, failures, and difficulties are described."

Pinsky describes the events in David's life and comments on them.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Inna Tysoe VINE VOICE on October 30, 2010
Format: Paperback
In this book Robert Pinsky makes a Biblical story most of us know (or at least think we know) come to life for he makes David, the poet-king, and his world (a world of clans and the bloodshed that goes with it that was in the process of becoming a nation of laws) somehow familiar to us. Here is the young David who nimbly kills Goliath who (among other things) is his cousin. (David is descended from Ruth the Moabite who followed Naomi while Goliath is descended from Ruth's sister Orpha, who stayed in Moab.) Here is David sending his parents to Moab and safety from Saul and here is David killing two thirds of the Moabites. And then, when told that he can no longer go out and risk himself on the battlefield (that's just not what kings do), David has a mid-life crisis with Bat-Sheba. And here is David, so old he can no longer find warmth, not only finding a way to out-smart his general Joab and his priest and make Bat-Sheba's son his heir but to ensure that his legacy endures.

But this is more than a story about one man (even a great if flawed man) growing from youth to old age. It is also a story about a king who somehow forges of disparate clans a nation of Judah and Israel. Here is David moving his capital from Hebron (where he ruled for seven years) to Jerusalem (a city claimed by neither Judah nor Israel). Here is David taking a census of the people (not counting the tribes but the people); here is David building his city--making of it a true capital, though it will be left to his son Solomon to finish the job. And here too is resistance to David. Resistance that, we are told, comes even from God with the census. And here is David triumphing over all of that in the end.
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