Thursday, April 2, 2009

"Good Book"

David Plotz is the editor of Slate and the author of The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new book, Good Book: The Bizarre, Hilarious, Disturbing, Marvelous, and Inspiring Things I Learned When I Read Every Single Word of the Bible, and reported the following:
Page 69 begins a new chapter of Good Book, the chapter about the Bible’s Book of Numbers. So it’s a short page, with lots of white space. It has the chapter title—“The Book of Numbers: The Source of All Jewish Comedy”— and a chapter summary of the kind that you see in 19th century novels. Below that, there’s room for just a few sentences of actual writing. That said, it’s an acceptable stand-in for the whole book. Perhaps the two key points in Good Book are that the Bible is 1) very entertaining; and 2) omnipresent in modern life. The chapter subtitle, “The Source of All Jewish Comedy,” hints at both of those points. (What that subtitle refers to, incidentally, is the way in which the Jews wandering in the Sinai desert during Numbers keep histrionically moaning, “I wish I was dead,” a melodramatic complaint that has, thanks to Woody Allen and every Jewish mother joke, now been recast as comedy.) I also think that the few sentences that do fit on the bottom of the page, which describe the census of the Israelites that gives the Book of Numbers its name, do capture the basic tone of the book: enthusiastic, sardonic befuddlement.
Browse inside Good Book and read Plotz's essay "What I learned from reading the entire Bible."

Watch a video of David Plotz explaining the inspiration for the project that became Good Book, and view his appearance on The Colbert Report.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue