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Out of the Garden: Women Writers on the Bible Paperback – May 10, 1995
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Writers as diverse as Louise Erdrich, Cynthia Ozick, Fay Weldon, and Barbara Grizzuti Harrison take on the Bible with generally fascinating results. The editors' task was to bring the oft-neglected feminine perspective (that is, the perspective of both the original, biblical players and contemporary women writers) to the fore. The result of this effort runs the gamut, from theologian Phyllis Trible's scholarly essay on Jezebel and the prophet Elijiah, to Patricia J. Williams' very personal account of the adoption of her son in the context of the story of pharaoh's daughter claiming the baby Moses. As to be expected, there is unevenness here, both in the choice of subject matter and in the quality of the writing, but overall, the selections are thought provoking and even disturbing, in the best sense of that word. The most interesting lesson, perhaps, especially for those not familiar with the scriptures, is how sparingly women are described in the Bible. Their absence, as Rachel M. Brownstein notes in her essay, invites "projection, identification, embroidery." These 27 essays provide just that and in the process give women much to ponder. Ilene Cooper --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Kirkus Reviews
A group of really smart women give astute readings of the Bible that, for the most part, subscribe to neither religious nor feminist orthodoxies. Happily, what Daphne Merkin, in her irreverent and surprising reading of The Song of Songs, calls the ``contemporary jargon- infused orthodox-feminist redactor...er, reader'' is virtually absent here. The 28 contributors to this volume are Jewish, Protestant, and Catholic, and they offer varied (and sometimes provocatively conflicting) insights into characters and events in the Old Testament. They are most successful when, in the best tradition of biblical interpretation, they fill in the gaps in the sometimes spare narrative, closely questioning the motives and morals of the actors (male and female, human and divine) and uncovering the messages embedded in the text. The pieces range from the personal (e.g., Rebecca Goldstein's urgent childhood quest to know why Lot's wife looked back), to the rigorously analytical (e.g., Ilana Pardes's structuralist paralleling of the sibling strife between Rachel and Leah with that between Jacob and Esau), to the political (e.g., Patricia J. Williams links Pharaoh's daughter saving the baby Moses, and thus thwarting the attempted genocide of the Jews, with contemporary questions of race, family, government intrusion into reproductive issues). Bchmann, a doctoral candidate in English literature (Univ. of California, Berkeley), refrains from the modern impulse to condemn Isaiah's portrait of God as ``savage and extravagant''; Lore Segal accepts the contradictions of a God who often changes his mind (``how else could one God encompass everything?''). Among the few less convincing entries are attempts to rehabilitate the reputation of biblical bad girl Delilah (by Fay Weldon, who seems to have little use for the Bible altogether) and Putnam senior editor Spiegel's evaluation of Queen Esther and her predecessor, Vashti, as feminist role models. A rewarding anthology by women who take the Bible seriously and on its own terms, as a literary, ethical, and spiritual expression. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Some of them addressed things I had never even put thought into... others showed me familiar ideas from a different viewpoint. one or two I actually disliked, but I am a harsh critic. Two of them, Job as a clown, and 'Our View of a Good God', i consider to be GOLD, and worth the cost only for those two...
i highly recommend this book, for yourself, or as a gift for a friend...
Out of ten members, only one or two could even finish it. We did not think that the quality of the essays was very good, which surprised us. We are a pretty literate group, and read a wide range of books, but this struck the great majority of us as something that might be better read by a college class on religion or womens' studies, but not something for the casual reader.
Just too dry and academic in feel.