THE BOOK OF DAVID by David Rosenberg


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 Like The Book of J, on which Rosenberg collaborated with Harold Bloom, this is a highly speculative theory about a biblical author--here, of the novella-like section on King David in 2 Samuel--plus a very free adaptation of that biblical narrative. Poet and critic Rosenberg hypothesizes that the author of the Davidic narrative was ``S,'' a member of the royal court during the end of the tenth century b.c., a ``companion'' of J's and also an ``aboriginal'' who was revising the poems and narrative of an earlier Canaanite culture. The problem is that Rosenberg never specifies what the aboriginal culture consisted of or how it interacted with the civilizations that migrated to Canaan. For that matter, he provides not a shred of evidence for his thesis from Hebrew or other ancient Middle Eastern texts. Further, his perspective on David's character and relationships is highly romanticized, utterly distorting the text, as in the claim that ``David and Bathsheva demonstrate an intimacy based on equality.'' Really? The biblical narrative plainly states that David lusts after Bathsheva, has her brought by his men to his court, and arranges for her husband to be killed so that he may possess her. As for Rosenberg's poetic and prose adaptations, they too often are clumsy, as in his rendering of 2 Samuel 13:2: ``Amnon is sick with a mess of feelings for his sister Tamar--she is a virgin besides- -and it is a forbidding task to imagine what to do with her.'' Finally, there is a long, tiresome, and often esoteric appendix, mainly written by Rhonda Rosenberg (the author's wife), condemning such biblical scholars as Richard Friedman and Robert Alter. Both Rosenbergs are so focused on pseudo-scholarly speculation, creative flights of fancy, and polemics, that for pages on end they almost entirely lose contact with the beguiling, ever-contemporary narrative that the author of the David story, whoever he was, offers.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-517-70800-0
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Harmony
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1997


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