Communion: Contemporary Writers Reveal the Bible in Their Livesby David Rosenberg
The authors in Communion, largely of Christian background, approach the Bible not primarily as a religious text, but as literary, imaginative, and cultural bedrock. By comparing their first exposure to the Bible as children, as many of the authors do, with an exploration of what the Bible means to them and to their work today, the authors reveal the concussion and… See more details below
The authors in Communion, largely of Christian background, approach the Bible not primarily as a religious text, but as literary, imaginative, and cultural bedrock. By comparing their first exposure to the Bible as children, as many of the authors do, with an exploration of what the Bible means to them and to their work today, the authors reveal the concussion and reverberation of the larger Judeo-Christian, American culture on our private lives. In reexamining specific books of the Hebrew Bible and New Testament in such a personal way, the writers, essayists, and poets in Communion illuminate the text with their lives, bringing their counterparts among the Biblical authors to life as well. Such a rereading allows them to reinvigorate the Bible with new meaning, and to better reveal how the Bible has shaped and altered their thought.
Poet and translator Rosenberg (Testimony, 1989; The Book of J, edited by Harold Bloom) has once again assembled a compendium of writers' essays on a single topic, in this case personal reflections on the Bible, often going back to childhood. Most of the writers are from Christian backgrounds, though most now approach the tradition with a healthy skepticism, and a few, like Catherine Texier, with "a fresh rage." The most intriguing contributions demonstrate how some writers have felt compelled to employ biblical models in their adult writing. Valerie Sayers, for instance, observing the matriarch Rebecca's bitterness and conniving strength, casts her in a contemporary novel. Several other creative essays trace common narrative threads through two seemingly disparate biblical books; Kathleen Norris uses both Jeremiah and Revelation to demonstrate how the poetry of apocalyptic literature is lost when the Bible is no longer read aloud. And slightly off the beaten track, Terry Tempest Williams discusses her reconciliation with her Utah childhood and the Book of Mormon in a convincing rite-of-passage essay. But all too many of the pieces fail to illuminate the biblical text: John Barth makes a confusing foray into the physics of creation; Elizabeth Hardwick's essay on the life of Jesus is afflicted with the very banality she fears will taint any attempt to write one's thoughts on the much-interpreted Bible. Readers are also advised to skip Rosenberg's pompous introduction, whose basic premise is that the Bible has been monopolized for too long by tweedy academics and needs at last to be understood on a personal level. The book's contrived division into three untitled parts leaves the reader wondering about Rosenberg's careless organization.
With this anthology topping out at 560 pages, Rosenberg could have been more discriminating in his selections and their presentation.
- Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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- 5.22(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.35(d)
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