October 25th, 2018


Book #45: God Knows by Joseph Heller

Number of pages: 446

This is written as a fake, warts-and-all autobiography of King David from The Bible. I know Joseph Heller was Jewish, though I have no idea if he was strictly religious, and this book suggests that he at least had a liberal view of the Old Testament.

I found the book's interpretations of Biblical events very funny; it portrays King David as petulant and narcissistic, sort of like a combination of characters from two of Heller's other books - Yossarian from Catch-22 and Bob Slocum from Something Happened, and he uses some very non-Biblical language (i.e. swear words).

Most of the source material appears to be from the books of 1 and 2 Samuel, focusing mostly on two issues: King David's relationships with his many wives, and him opposing the idea of Solomon becoming the next king. There were a few running gags that I enjoyed, such as the observation about how Samuel has two books named after him, even though he dies halfway through the first one, mostly through David complaining that the books should be called 1 and 2 David.

There were other observations in the book that I enjoyed too, particularly how people mentioned in the Bible with difficult to pronounce names never had much going for them, and how all the memorable figures had names like David, Joseph and Abraham.

I noticed also that the narrative seemed to jump around in the timeline a lot, and it took a bit of getting used to. Some events, including the exodus from Egypt and Saul's death, seemed to be mentioned in detail more than once. The book was also filled with anachronisms, with several references to people and books that came long after Old Testament times (Shakespeare is quoted a lot).

I enjoyed this book a lot, even though it was not a book that I could read quickly; for a lot of the time, I was constantly laughing out loud, but wasn't surprised when late in the book, moments of tragedy started occurring (they seem to be a staple of Joseph Heller's novels). It might offend religious people who take their beliefs very seriously, but I'd recommend it to anyone else.

Next book: The Birds and Other Stories (Daphne DuMaurier)