June 29, 2010

Rabid Reads: "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bible!" by Jonathan Goldstein

Title: Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bible!
Author: Jonathan Goldstein
Published: Penguin Group (2009)
Pages: 239
ISBN 978-0-14-305654-6

Listening to Jonathan Goldstein's radio show, Wire Tap, should make you aware of how funny the guy can be. Add that with blurbs on the cover of Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bible! from Susan Vowell and David Sedaris--two even funnier authors--I was quite looking forward to reading this collection of stories.

If you ever read the Bible, and you didn't believe it as the literal truth, then chances are you walked away from it with a peculiar sense of Really? when it came to some of the stories told within its pages--Noah's Arc always left me feeling perplexed and full of heretical questions, as a child. The subject matter practically begs to be satirized in one form or another, which I found done quite capably by Monty Python's Life of Brian and even Year One. And that's what Goldstein sets out to do with these stories: Offer a humorous reimagining of some of the most famous stories told within the Old Testament.

So, after reading this book, I'm kind of left wondering where all the laughs went to. Oh, it's got some humorous spots in it, alright. A couple of genuine laugh-out-loud moments too. But the majority of the book's contents felt, to me, more of an attempt to be poignant through subtle humor and even a dash of melodrama. What I was expecting before opening this book to read it--and I really should have caught myself building expectations for the book earlier--was something far more satirical and blatantly comedic. I think the book is safe from criticism of parodying the Bible with a mean-spirited intent, but the satirical elements became more sparse than I'd expected as I continued to turn pages.

Stories like "Adam and Eve" and "The Golden Calf" do a lot to really show the funnier sides to those stories, as well as weed out some of the hidden wisdom. But when it came to stories like "Samson and Delilah" and "King David," the humor really seemed to take a backseat for some reason.

I suspect in hindsight that Jonathan Goldstein was going for something a little more than just a collection of laugh lines and witticisms in this book, but I must admit to wishing that he had stuck to that. The laughs that were there were genuinely good, but the rest of it felt like those awkward moments when a stand-up comedian gets serious in the middle of his set. I came to hear punchlines, not pathos.

You can read other reviews of this book at: Literally Booked; Paperback Book Instyle

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