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Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bible! Paperback – April 7, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Several Bible stories get a rewrite in this funny collection by This American Life contributing editor Goldstein (Lenny Bruce Is Dead). In this version, David kills Goliath not so much for his people as for laughs, and Jonah's lesser-known brother Vito fears that God's hand in Jonah's stint inside the whale has less to do with Jonah than Vito's own role in a youthful penis-touching incident. In My Troubles (A Work in Progress, by Joseph of N—), a worried father-to-be deals with the ambiguities of having one's wife knocked up by an angel. The voices of these stories sound like that of the semiobservant Jew in the book's preface, who describes one of God's failed universes as consisting of just one person—a man named Morris who sat in a room by himself, trying to decide whether to cuff his pants or let them drag. With refashioned language and reimagined motivations, Goldstein's biblical characters evoke the kind of touching truths only found at the bottom of deep barrel laughs. (Apr.)
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The deeply religious might be offended by This American Life contributor Goldstein’s often-raucous reimaginings of Old Testament tales. But the less devout may find themselves chuckling at the unholy hilarity of it all. Here readers find Adam and Eve talking to God after being banished from the Garden of Eden: “We get it,” they screamed. “You’ve made your point. Now let us back in already.” A misanthropic Noah hears a voice (inside his nose, no less) telling him to build an ark. An enterprising man operates a “Golden Calf” business to compete with the Almighty, marketing the bovine as a “more laid-back, cud-chewing lord.” Swarthy Samson, who’s been shacking up with foxy Philistine Delilah, threatens a mortal enemy: “I will make Jewish his penis with my teeth.” After killing Goliath, an unsatisfied David finds that all he really wants to do is to make people laugh. Even God gets a dressing-down in a brave new biblical world that’s part parable, part vaudeville: “He was . . . tough, stubborn, and prone to yelling in your face for pretty much no reason.” --Allison Block
Top customer reviews
But then it runs out of steam, and gets too far away from the source material. King David is made into a sort of failed Shecky Greene wanna-be comedian, and it's more of just a superimposition of flat Jewish stereotypes onto Biblical characters. It has little flashes of brilliance, such as the following passage (thoughts of David): "Gone are the carefree days of slaying giants. As you get older you strip away the things you don't have time for, and then you are left only with things you have time for. Your life gets skinnier and skinnier until you wonder why you go on. You go on because there are things that must get done. You become no longer a person so much as a place, an unfunny place where things come to get done." Unfortunately, they're sandwiched between thick layers of schtick.
Of course, humor is in the eye and ear of the beholder. If you're a deep Catskills devotee, then you may get a lot out of the second half. In my eye, the first half is worth the price of admission.
The casting of David versus Goliath as a battle of comics is also one of the highlights of the book, IMHO. I actually warmed up to the book as it went on. The end of the David story, as well as the Jonah story and the Joseph stories, are pretty good. I helps a lot if you have heard the author on the radio, so you can imagine the stories read in his voice.
For whatever it's worth, my favorite book in this genre is still Peculiar Treasures: A Biblical Who's Who