In the darkness the trees are full of starlight (henwy) wrote,
In the darkness the trees are full of starlight

  • Mood:

The end of the matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride (Ecclesiastes)

Well, I just finished A.J. Jacobs' book The Year of Living Biblically and I'm not sure exactly what I feel about it. I liked the book overall and read for entertainment it was great. I'm just not sure if I expected something more out of it and if so, whether I got it.

Overall, it's very similar to his previous book, The Know It All, in style and content. Someone commented over at Amazon that the book is more like a blog than anything else. It basically consists of chapters seperated based on month and then each section within is about one particular day wherein he tries to follow the bible, similar to when he seperated his last book based on Britanicca volumes. Since it's a memoir, many of the characters are retreads. He, of course, stars as the not-so-mildly neurotic guy at the center of the project, and we once again meet his long-suffering wife who is sketched in very sympathetic terms as she tries to deal with what might almost be considered an extended bout of insanity. Into the mix are drawn various family members and friends, as well as a whole host of spiritual experts that function as some sort of religious hotline to be used in times of need.

First and foremost, the book is incredibly entertaining. It's hard to imagine that it wouldn't be considering that the premise is for someone neuroticly OCD to follow every rule in the bible as literally as possible. Right from the start he stops shaving, eventually turning into an ambulatory hedge, attaches tassles to all his clothing, only wears white clothing, and refuses to touch women because they might be impure having just menstruated recently. Hijinx ensue.

On the otherhand, Jacobs actually makes quite an effort to actually go out and mix with the various religious groups. He could have easily just stayed in NYC and milked the local angles, but ends up going to Jeruselum, as well as visiting the Amish, snake handlers, and Jerry Falwel's church. He ends up going to lengths that most people could and would have avoided. Considering the sheer number of biblical rules out there, he probably could have avoided tithing 10% of his income without anyone really batting an eye. Paying a hundred dollars to swipe a pidgeon egg in order to fulfill some obscure hsidic ritual could also be considered overkill. In the end, a lot of the focus was on the weird rather than any real spiritual journey. He even acquires a slave (unpaid intern) and proceeds to list just how severely he could beat him based on biblical rules.

I guess in the end, if for entetainment, the book is a winner. As long as you're not really looking for some sort of epiphany moment or anything much deeper. Even in those moments where he seems to find something more in his biblical exercise, he's quick toa jerk himself back as if almost embarassed to have let us see him strting to slip from a completely logical (and superior) agnosticism.

On the plus side, the book is filled with all sortsa interesting little facts that might come in handy one day if I ever become a contestant on a quiz show and see a bible category. I've only tried to read the bible once in my life and got flummoxed by the near endless pages of begat's. I tossed it aside and I've never gone back since. I think I might even have a book of mormon somewhere in the garage after a couple of runins with missionaries around a decade ago. It's sad but the most interesting fact that has stuck with me so far is that 'tarnation' is actually a bastardization of 'eternal damnation'. And all this time I thought it was just some nonesence spouted by Yosemite Sam.
Tags: book club, book club: a.j. jacobs

  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded