Friday, March 21, 2014

Such is the way to create history, when none is available

History is written by the winners. They make sure to remove that version of history that belongs to the losers. David, the young entertainer coming to play his lyre in king Saul’s court, makes this point in Rise to Power:

Hung on the wall is an shiny iron shield. I brush my fingers over the sharp ridges of the engraved inscription, trying to figure it out by touch. 
It says, The House of Kish. To a naive observer it may seem like an emblem of a highly respected ancestrybut as everyone around the country knows, Saul has no royal blood in his veins. He is the son of Kish, a lowly farmer who owns but a few asses. In his youth Saul used to tend to these stubborn animals. 
He may long for those carefree days. Even so, word on the street is that he did a lousy job, because the asses got lost more often than not. Everyone hopes and prays that he will do better as a king.
The worst part is, his family comes from a tribe of ill-repute. The tribe of Benjamin is known to be nothing but a rowdy mob, notorious for an insatiable appetite for rape and murder, for which it was severely punished. In a fierce civil war, it was nearly wiped outnot so long agoby the other tribes. 
For the life of me I cannot figure why the first king of Israel should be picked from the poor, the downtrodden. It is a questionable political decision—but perhaps it is better this way. In the back of his mind Saul should know his humble beginnings. He should feel compassion for his subjects, even though at this point all I sense out of him is rage and jealousy.
He is the son of a simple farmer, which makes this emblem quite pretentious. But who cares? By instinct I get it, I understand his need to display the thing, because this is the way to create history, when none is available. 

Even when the winner’s version of history makes it to the books, it is modified by later generations, adding layers upon layers of interpretation. So when I select old yarn to give it a new twist, I always focus on the human aspect: my biblically-inspired characters are no heroes. They are modern men and women, who at times find the courage to do heroic acts; at times they are besieged by emotions of grief, jealousy, or overwhelming passion; and always, they ponder who they are with the doubts and hesitations that are familiar to all of us. 
Here, for example, is what Yankle--the main character in my book A Favorite Son, inspired by the biblical figure of Jacob--says about who he is. 

I like to think of myself as a modern man. A confused one. One left to his own devices, because of one thing: the silence of God. When Isaac, my father, lay on his deathbed, waiting for me, or rather, for his favorite son to come in, he suspected, somehow, that he was about to be fooled. And yet, God kept silent. Now, all these years later, I wonder about it. 
God did not help the old man. He gave no warning to him, not one whisper in his ear, not a single clue. Now as then, He is utterly still, and will not alert me when my time comes, when they, my sons, flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood, are ready to face me, to fool their old man.

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Rise to Power

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A Peek at Bathsheba

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The Edge of Revolt

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