Six Memos from the Last Millennium: A Novelist Reads the Talmud

Joseph Skibell. University of Texas Press, $24.95 (236p) ISBN 978-1-4773-0734-2
Novelist and essayist Skibell (A Blessing on the Moon) turns his attention to the ancient narratives that appear in the Talmud. Disappointed by the commentary he encountered in his Talmud classes, Skirball picked up the tools of his trade and approached the stories of the Talmud as works of dramatic fiction. This work offers five brief dramatic scenes from the Babylonian Talmud, each story followed by Skibell's own literary and spiritual exegesis. He draws on Talmudic commentary as well as other historical and cultural reference points, seeking to highlight the interpersonal and spiritual dramas contained in the spare literary style of the original tale. The result is somewhat mixed. Study groups may find these essays a fruitful jumping-off point for reflection and discussion, but Skibell would have been a more effective ambassador for the power of Talmudic storytelling through fiction rather than analytic prose. His commentary wanders through the plot points and character sketches of his chosen tales in a digressive fashion that is charmingly personal but at times confusing. Readers not already familiar with the tales under discussion may find themselves lost among interwoven references to historical figures and events, theological debates, and literary, sociological, and pop-cultural references. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/04/2016
Release date: 04/01/2016
Genre: Religion
Open Ebook - 978-1-4773-0736-6
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