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King David in Review

22nd October 2005

The New York Times Book section has a review of Robert Pinsky’s book, The Life of David (Nextbook/Schocken, 2005; Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com).

The book is the first in Schocken’s Jewish Encounters series which will feature popular books on different Jewish themes. Here is an excerpt from William Deresiewicz’s review:

The Life of David grows increasingly strong as it moves from David’s early years to the years of his reign. The evolution from disconnected legends like David’s battle with Goliath to the fuller record of a sitting king allows Pinsky to move from the waters of speculation to the solid ground of interpretation. Pinsky’s reading of David’s mystifyingly disastrous attempt to take a census as the embodiment of everything threatening about his revolutionary transformation of the Jewish people “from a masked, uncataloged, exclusionary, taboo-ridden culture of tribes to a visible, enumerated, inclusive civilization,” is a tour de force of historical imagining.

Most important, Pinsky achieves his stated goal of making David more accessible without making him cease to be alien, as any figure from so remote a culture must always remain. Some might argue that a work of this kind ought not be attempted in the first place, that to embroider the biblical text is false and presumptuous. But what Pinsky does here is squarely within the Midrashic tradition of narrative elaboration, even if his methods and sensibility are unmistakably modern. Whatever may be said of David and his lineage, it is this kind of creative engagement that makes the Bible itself live and endure.

It sounds like it would be a good read.

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