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Friday, March 24, 2006

Reader's Diary #59: Exodus (FINISHED)


Does anyone know if anyone's attempted publishing a Bible-like book in recent years? I'm not talking about a Bible spoof, but an epic collection of stories told in a Bible-esque style. The reason I ask is because I don't think it would work. Not because it would be too controversial- that would work in its favour as far as sales are concerned- but because a true-to-form book styled after the Bible would be just too boring and disconjointed to read. Before lightning strikes me down and it seems like I'm passing judgment on the Bible, I'd like to clear up that it's more of a comment on publishers than the Bible.

Could you imagine someone bringing in the Exodus manuscript to a publisher today? "Let's see, the descriptions of the Ark of the Covenant? Way too long- it really consumes the latter half of the book- all this talk about cubits and golden rings. And Aaron-we don't get a real sense of who he is, do we? I know he's a peripheral character but maybe we could add in a little more pizazz- maybe even create more of a sibling rivalry there. And how about a love interest for Moses- I'm a little afraid people are going to find him too untouchable, let's humanize him a bit shall we?"

But I can't really hold that against publishers. Because really, would readers like the Bible if it was just another novel? Probably not. Even if someone wrote (as I proposed above) a fantasy epic and wrote it in a style to mimic the Bible, the novelty of that would also wear off. Let's say, J.K. Rowling had four chapters in a row on the description of, oh, I don't know- a doorknocker for Hogwarts or something. There'd be page after page describing the ring being made of brass with a gryphon head made of gold and eyes made of chiseled emeralds from the shores of Lake Gemmalaigh...and you get the idea; Bible satire or not, it'd get pretty boring.

But lest it seem that I'm thinly disguising my own critique of the Bible in an effort to "play it safe", I understand that saying the Bible doesn't make a good novel is much like saying a cat doesn't make a good dog. But that doesn't mean it can't make for an interesting conversation.

And I'd like to end by saying there was a very novel-like moment in Exodus. When God gets annoyed by the Israelites for worshipping the golden calf and so forth, Moses pleads with him not to smite his people, reminding Him of past promises to protect them. If one didn't know the story, there'd be some real suspense there. Is God going to listen to the pleas of this mere mortal? Will He smite the Israelites or won't He? Cut to commercial...

1 comment:

Sue said...

Hi John, I'm Rob's friend Sue from university and I followed your link from RJ:Product. I really liked reading this review of Exodus. Sometimes it's hard to find biblical critiques or hermeneuts around here and among Canadians in general and so it was a joy to read. I am studying theology at Queen's College in St. John's. Cheers,
Susan Jane Moore