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God Knows by Joseph Heller

God Knows (1984)

by Joseph Heller

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (9)  Swedish (1)  All languages (10)
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Funny, cynical, crazy, delightful ( )
  IVOLOKITA | Jan 21, 2019 |
A good book from the first chapter to last, true, its a vintage Heller! ( )
  oel_3 | Jan 17, 2016 |
57. God Knows by Joseph Heller (1984, 356 pages, read Sep 12 – Nov 7)

I'm not going to give Heller his due in these comments. This book was brutal for me get through, although in the end it came around and left some kind of positive impression.

A very elderly King David, cold and unable to get warm, lies on his bed and reflects on his life in an all knowing sort of way - past and future. He constantly argues with his future reputation, comments on such things as the famous Renaissance statues of David and so on. He's a cantankerous selfish bastard who curses left and right and has little to nothing we might convey moral or compassionate, and lacks any type of contrition. He's still bitter that God stopped speaking him after David had Uriah killed so he could marry Uriah's wife, Bathsheba. The novel follows the biblical story to the finest detail, including pronouncing both exaggerations and many things only subtly implied as factual.

All this is apparent in the first ten pages or so, and that is where the book lost me. I don't find the idea of a cantankerous David all that unique or interesting. Any intended shock effect fell flat on me. And, having just read the biblical version (I actually started while in the middle of Samuel) I had all the biblical details pretty clearly in my mind. I didn't need the lengthy refresher. It was only when the book embellished that it was able to maintain my attention - but there really wasn't that much of that. So I struggled.

So, what is going on here. David's narrative is obsessed with Bathsheba. He reads her in depth, sees that she has emotionally turned away from him and fully knows that her only interest in David now is to get him to place her son as next in line in succession, even though the actual next in line is Solomon's older brother, Adonijah. It's through Bathsheba that David reveals his human side, where real emotions come to surface. He has a complicated kind of love of for her, and an intense longing for her in ways that are past. But he can't reach her. In David's thinking about her the book becomes an exploration of the things we desire that are out of reach, simply impossible, and how we might consider compromising our lives just to maybe try to lean closer to them. We know what David is going to do, but we have to wonder exactly why.

There are many cute details in here offering different implications, such as when David is served tacos for dinner...yes tacos. It's a playful mixing of what is normal at present into the past where it's outrageous. This seems to hint that Heller is using this to explore something more modern, likely writing about himself and his life through David. It's so interesting a idea that I spent a lot of energy trying to see that in the book...but mostly I failed. Should I read it again?

What won me over in the end was when I finally began to see and appreciate what Bathsheba really meant to David and began to tangle with his inability to get her back...or to stop wanting her. In the end I was moved. ( )
10 vote dchaikin | Dec 13, 2012 |
I laughed at the humor, but suffered through the tedious parts. It has the type of tedious descriptions that serve only to cause suffering, without adding any actual enhancement to the work.

The story is of King David, from the Old Testament, who is old and laying in his deathbed. There is a lot of poking fun at religion, and the humor is quite unique. But there are other moments when the story just drags on and gets extremely boring (not unlike the Bible).

If you like Heller, then you probably should read it. But I wouldn't make it a priority on the list of things to read. ( )
1 vote GaryPatella | Jul 30, 2012 |
The author of Catch-22 takes on the story of David, focusing solely on the Biblical king's dying days, when he is kept warm by a young virgin, and battles are going on for who will succeed him. Bathsheba is engaged in palace intrigue on behalf of her son, Solomon, while David just lusts, in an impotent way, over the old queen. Witty, but misses the mark at times. ( )
  Devil_llama | Apr 30, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Joseph Hellerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Stowell, GordonIllustratormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Capriolo, EttoreTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Szilágyi, TiborTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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But how can one be warm alone?
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Abishag the Shunammite washes her hands, powders her arms, removes her robe, and approaches my bed to lie down on top of me.
There is no new thing under the sun, is there, certainly no new plots. Show me anything whereof it may be said "See, this is new," and I will show you it hath been. There are only four basic plots in life anyway, and nine in literature, and everything else is but variation, vanity, and vexation of spirit.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0684841258, Paperback)

Joseph Heller's powerful, wonderfully funny, deeply moving novel is the story of David -- yes, King David -- but as you've never seen him before. You already know David as the legendary warrior king of Israel, husband of Bathsheba, and father of Solomon; now meet David as he really was: the cocky Jewish kid, the plagiarized poet, and the Jewish father. Listen as David tells his own story, a story both relentlessly ancient and surprisingly modern, about growing up and growing old, about men and women, and about man and God. It is quintessential Heller.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:19 -0400)

As the Biblical David lies on his death-bed he looks back on his own, crowded life and tells all --.

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