A collection of essays—ranging from brief polemic to biography to short fiction—on the Bible.
Of those authors chosen for this collection by Blauner (editor: Our Boston: Writers Celebrate the City They Love, 2013, etc.), few are overt persons of faith. Many of the essays include the contributors’ stories of falling away from the faith traditions of their childhoods, be it Judaism, Catholicism, evangelical Protestantism, etc. In his introduction, Adam Gopnik posits immediately that “[the Bible’s] stories have long ago fallen away; we know that almost nothing that happens in it actually happened, and that its miracles, large and small, are of the same kind and credibility as all other miracles that crowd the world’s great granary of superstition.” Though not all the writers are as thoroughly dismissive of the Bible as sacred Scripture, most are. Robert Coover, in fact, ends the collection with a genuinely caustic view of the Bible as “unbearable diatribe exhibiting an appalling and infantile view of the universe.” Though a few of the essays are genuinely worthwhile and even touching—e.g., Lois Lowry’s reflection on family—most are casual and shallow. The goal of the book is vague. On the surface, the collection draws on secularist writers to explore what effect earlier exposure to the Bible has had upon them. However, too often the writers slide into irrelevant territory. In some cases, the job of writing such a short essay seems overly labored and clumsy, such as when Owen King stumbles around with such disparate topics as Dr. Seuss, the George W. Bush–John Kerry presidential debates, and Pope Francis when trying to discuss a single verse in Luke. Though the collection will not interest readers of faith, it may appeal to a subset of intellectuals who, like the contributors, have stepped away from belief in Scripture and yet still hold some fascination with it. Other contributors include Pico Iyer, Edwidge Danticat, Ian Frazier, Rick Moody, and Kathleen Norris.
A smug, disappointing collection.