Sunday, January 20, 2013

I want my God back; and they send me a girl.

With Andrea and the boys in Minnesota, I've had a bit more time for reading. One of my goals is to read more fiction, so I finally opened up God Knows by Joseph Heller. +Elissa Ballman lent this to me some time ago, as I recall, after we discussed Heller's more famous Catch-22.

God Knows is the retelling of King David's life in the first person. It's terribly funny and, surprisingly enough, at times rather sad. One of the most amusing features is that Heller made Solomon a complete idiot (presumably prior to him receiving his famed wisdom from God):
   "Solomon, my wise child, how in the world did you ever remember all that?"
   "She wrote it down for me on my tablet. She also put this little bell around my neck. To remind me to look."
   "Sooner or later I was going to have to ask you about that bell. I thought it might be in case you got lost. You and your mother are very close, aren't you?"
   "I like to believe that we are," Solomon answers with a nod. "She sits at my right hand whenever we are together. We always think only the very best of each other. She thinks I'm a god, and I think she's a virgin. Tell me, Father," he inquires with enormous gravity, "is it possible that my mother can be a virgin?"
   "There you have me."
   "She's been married twice."
   "I wouldn't jump to conclusions."
   "I've been thinking hard about it."
   "I thought I smelled wood burning."
   "I've been thinking also that I would have forty thousand horses and twelve thousand horsemen. I want to speak three thousand proverbs, and my songs will be about a thousand and five. From Dan even to Beersheba, when I have my way, every man will dwell safely under his vine and his fig tree, if I leave him his vine and leave him his fig tree. I want to cut a baby in half."
   "Good God! You do?"
   "I do."
   "Why?"
   "To show how fair I can be. Everyone will think I was very fair."
"Everyone will think you're nuts," I feel I have to let him know. "I think you'll go down in history as the biggest damned imbecile who ever lived if you tried even a single one of the things you've mentioned today. I won't breathe a word of your stupidity to a soul, and you don't say anything to anyone about any of this either. We will keep it our secret."
   "I want to build a navy."
   "Oh, my God!"
I found myself laughing out loud all too often while reading on the bus or at home. Surprisingly, based on a quick check of Wikipedia's page on David and of Solomon, it looks like Heller was quite accurate with many of the events and people he described in his book.

Having enjoyed God Knows so much, I might just re-read Catch-22 this year and relive Yossarian's struggle to survive the ever-increasing number of bombing raids.

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