I would like to take a moment to respond to the Kirkus review that is reprinted by Barnes&Noble. I don't mind an honest disagreement, but this particular review was written with a personal grudge and bears no relation to the book. First, I want to quote from the Publishers Weekly review, which I excerpt: "In this imaginative and provocative work...Rosenberg's interest is in evoking the characters who inhabit the biblical narratives, and his translations and transformations of the text are powerful and moving...It tells David's story in a way that reveals the characters of David, Rosenberg and "S"."
In response to the Kirkus review, which distorts the book, I understand that it can be frightening to face origins for the first time. THE BOOK OF DAVID is about the origins of the novel and lyric poetry as well as the Bible. And it is about the origins of an individual sensibility, as represented by David-in short, about who we are today. But foremost, the book is about "J" and "S", the original human authors, and the Kirkus reviewer doesn't care who our original authors were ("whoever he was," he counters superficially). But this reviewer also doesn't tell the reader that this book explains why we should care and why our memory of the original history is repressed. Nor does he explain how THE BOOK OF DAVID engages the meaning of spirituality in our time. He goes on to demean aboriginals and even women, distorting Rhonda Rosenberg's subtle analysis of male-oriented repression at the end of the book. And even though the book opens: "How men and women imagine their lives today begins with the mature David," this reviewer never mentions the vulnerable side of David and how it is explored for the first time. Finally, this reviewer claims there is no "evidence" given, yet there are dozens of major sources cited and woven into the story. Why, then, is the reviewer distorting the book? I believe it comes from fear-fear of an independence of mind that scares this rigid reviewer, who is afraid to even call a translation a translation (he refers to it as "adaptation"). However, I do believe that most readers will be able to see through the misrepresentation and wrestle with what is new.
"Like The Book of J, on which Rosenberg collaborated with Harold Bloom, this is a highly speculative theory about a biblical authorhere, of the novella-like section on King David in 2 Samuelplus a very free adaptation of that biblical narrative.
Poet and critic Rosenberg hypothesizes that the author of the Davidic narrative was "S," a member of the royal court during the end of the tenth century b.c., a "companion" of J's and also an "aboriginal" who was revising the poems and narrative of an earlier Canaanite culture. The problem is that Rosenberg never specifies what the aboriginal culture consisted of or how it interacted with the civilizations that migrated to Canaan. For that matter, he provides not a shred of evidence for his thesis from Hebrew or other ancient Middle Eastern texts. Further, his perspective on David's character and relationships is highly romanticized, utterly distorting the text, as in the claim that "David and Bathsheva demonstrate an intimacy based on equality." Really? The biblical narrative plainly states that David lusts after Bathsheva, has her brought by his men to his court, and arranges for her husband to be killed so that he may possess her. As for Rosenberg's poetic and prose adaptations, they too often are clumsy, as in his rendering of 2 Samuel 13:2: "Amnon is sick with a mess of feelings for his sister Tamarshe is a virgin besidesand it is a forbidding task to imagine what to do with her." Finally, there is a long, tiresome, and often esoteric appendix, mainly written by Rhonda Rosenberg (the author's wife), condemning such biblical scholars as Richard Friedman and Robert Alter.
Both Rosenbergs are so focused on pseudo-scholarly speculation, creative flights of fancy, and polemics, that for pages on end they almost entirely lose contact with the beguiling, ever-contemporary narrative that the author of the David story, whoever he was, offers."