A rapidly accelerating culture forces us to commit shorthand and accept common wisdom. Helen Keller overcame diversity and became fodder for inspirational posters and tasteless jokes. Opera is for snobs. Pop music is for idiots. Every song you loved in high school is automatically better and more original than anything produced in the last three years. War & Peace is the GREAT BOOK, more of a reading challenge than actual entertainment. The Bible is either the cornerstone of all morality or a crappy boring little book used by religious zealots and hypocrites to trump arguments.Definitely need a better conclusion. Also the first sentence sounds pretentious as hell.
The assumptions can be so pervasive, you don't even know that you are wrong. I was in my twenties when I learned that Helen Keller was a radical socialist who frequently declared that had she would have never learned how to communicate had she been born to a poor family. Opera can be bloodier and crazier than the best Tarantino films. Popular music had been transcendent or stupid in every era. If you think that AC/DC is more original than Nikki Minaj then you might just be a middle aged douchebag. War & Peace is actually entertaining.
The Bible suffers the most from cultural shorthand. Since the Bible is the basis for two major world religions, many approach it with a false reverence where all ambiguity and tension vanishes. When Thomas Bowdler put out his Family Shakespeare book, he dealt with the troubling parts (not suitable for women and children) by removing them entirely. In the case of the Bible, bowdlerizing is unnecessary. Boring translations, purposefully inane commentaries and superficial interpretations have managed to convince people that they already know the Bible so why bother reading it?
What is the Book of Job about? If you answered that Job is a good man who suffers, keeps the faith and eventually gets everything back, mazel tov! You know about 3% of the book and you completely misinterpreted the ending. You might as well say that MacBeth is a play about a Scottish dude that gets his head cut off or that Wuthering Heights is a love story. It's not entirely your fault. The reductionist version inspires great sermons. Few religious leaders are going to highlight the many passages with Job calling God a sadistic asshole, much less God's sarcastic and rather brilliant response.
It should not feel revolutionary or blasphemous to approach the Bible as a literary text, shelving all culture biases associated with it. The Bible is funny, psychotic, contradictory and bizarre. That's what makes it awesome. Granted, the Bible can get dull, especially for people who don't have an interest in following Jewish law or building a temple in their backyard (or Jerusalem for that matter), but the Bible is also an ancient text that takes in centuries of literary and social history and distills it into a collection that is at turns reverential, hilarious and profound, but always built upon a tension of a religious framework that requires constant dialogue and dynamic engagement.
Both this book and its predecessor, She Nailed a Stake Through His Head, come from a place of profound reverence and love for the Bible. In the previous book, I mentioned how much I was shocked and delighted to discover that the Bible can be existentialist, erotic, historical, apocalyptic and full of poop jokes. Seriously, I'm shocked that I never made the connection between Beelzebub being translated as “lord of the flies” and the fact that flies congregate around shit.
As I learned from She Nailed a Stake Through His Head, the cultural shorthand associated with the Bible also applies to multi-author Bible themed anthologies. Many people either avoided the book entirely thinking that it was a tool of religious indoctrination or bought it with the assumption that it was pure blasphemy. I would have corrected their assumptions, but I was too busy thanking them for their money.
Finally, these stories are meant to stand on their own. If you know nothing about King David, Joab, Tamar, Daniel or Absalom, you might miss a couple of references, but I chose stories that are brilliant on their own merits. They are not puzzles to challenge Bible nerds. However, if you like the stories enough that you want to explore further, most of them are based on tales from the Book of Samuel. If you can find a good translation, definitely read it. My general guideline for Samuel is to check out chapter 5, verse 12. If the Philistines are afflicted with hemorrhoids, it's a good translation. If they are suffering from “tumors” or “the plague”, the translator is useless. The one exception is Robert Alter, who gives the Philistine's tumors, but he wrote The Art of Biblical Poetry and The Art of Biblical Narrative which pretty much inspired me to throw out my pre-conceived notions, read the Bible as literature and ultimately publish this book. I don't agree with the passage, but I generally trust Alter's translation.
Here is the back cover blurb - I kind of just threw that one together
Back Cover DescriptionIt feels generic because it's still generic. But I'm getting tired of the hyperbolic back cover descriptions that I usually employ.
Following the success of She Nailed a Stake Through His Head: Tales of Biblical Terror, Dybbuk Press presents a new short story collection of Biblical based tales full of murder, incest and mad prophets. Seven brilliant writers including Sonya Taaffe, Megan Arkenberg and Alter Reiss present tales as beautiful and terrifying as the originals.