THE VERY MODEL OF A MAN by Howard Jacobson


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 A smug novel that aspires to rip the lid off religious convention and conviction. Jacobson (Roots Schmoots, 1994, etc.) tackles the Hebrew Scriptures in this new effort. Narrated by Cain, the first murderer and the founder of the first city, the life led by Adam and his family is far different than that portrayed by the pious chroniclers of the Bible. Though the group has already been expelled from Eden, creation is far from complete. The Earth still vibrates with the energy of formation, and to even stamp one's foot is to set in motion a chain of reactions that could lead to some bizarre new species. And there is plenty of reason to stamp one's foot. The omnipresent deity is getting on humanity's nerves, and any attempt to discuss the matter leads to divine punishment because God is decidedly thin-skinned. Adam abuses Cain because the boy is the only thing in the world that he's not afraid of. To top things off, the new baby, Abel, is getting all of Eve's attention, leaving Cain feeling deprived. The boy vows that, even though he loves his brother, he will nonetheless kill him. The novel bounces back and forth between this story and Babel, where an aged Cain is telling his tale in a kind of one-man show for the amusement of the cynical citizenry, who crave entertainment and lack both a theology and a sense of humor. Also related are the stories of the Exodus and of Korah, a cousin of Moses and Aaron who led a rebellion against their leadership and authority. Lurking at the edges of it all is the mysterious Sisobk the Scryer, a member of a Cainite cult that has grown up around the fratricide. Condescension and anachronisms mar what comes across as second-rate Joseph Heller or Philip Roth. Jacobson looks into faith and sees only dark corners.

Pub Date: Nov. 14th, 1994
ISBN: 0-87951-522-8
Page count: 342pp
Publisher: Overlook
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1994


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