cover image The Old Testament Made Easy

The Old Testament Made Easy

Jeanne Steig. Farrar Straus Giroux, $7.95 (64pp) ISBN 978-0-374-22583-4

In limerick, quatrain and couplet, Steig ( Consider the Lemming ) celebrates heroes and villains of various Old Testament books, lightheartedly evoking figures generally cloaked in solemnity. She presents us with Moses, worried he'll fall bringing the tablets down the mountainside and ``break all Ten Commandments at once,'' and in ``The Tower of Babel'' gives God these lines: ``One has got to deal firmly / With people like these, / For they're apt to forget / Why I gave them their knees.'' Offering little to offend the traditionalist, Steig can be sly--in ``Disaster Narrowly Averted'' Abraham circumcises Isaac ``According to the will of God, / Who doesn't like to spare the rod''--or slightly off the mark, viz., describing the infant Moses as ``cute as a pup.'' Her husband-illustrator's line-and-wash drawings provide delicious complements to the text--his hirsute, bewildered Elijah, portly, smiling angels, and delectably fleshy Bathsheba, ``as dumb and curvaceous as an amoeba,'' are visual reminders that these ancient icons were beings as lumpy and confused or stalwart and brave as ourselves. (Nov.)