Talking about Genesis
Bill Moyers. Anchor Books, $5.95 (177pp) ISBN 978-0-385-48580-7
Having brought Joseph Campbell's ideas on world mythologies (The Power of Myth, 1988) and the intricacies and rhythms of modern poetry (The Language of Life, 1995) to a general audience, journalist Moyers now seeks to do the same to stories contained in the book of Genesis. In this companion to the PBS series of the same name (to air October 16), Moyers gathers the voices of numerous thinkers and writers: novelists Mary Gordon and John Barth; theologians Elaine Pagels and Phyllis Trible; biblical critics Robert Alter (whose own translation of Genesis has just been published by Norton) and Walter Breuggeman; and cultural critics like Karen Armstrong and Carol Gilligan, among others, into a fascinating, often tendentious, conversation about the living character of stories that address everything from the creation of the world and the temptations of the first couple to the internecine struggles of Jacob's family and the slavery of Joseph. In the end, however, listening in on these discussions is a little like sitting in on a therapy session, listening to participants rant about the ways they have become victims of these grand cultural stories. For example, in discussing the story of Abraham's rejection of Hagar, novelist Bharati Mukherjee complains that the story has reduced women to wombs. Moyers enjoys his role as middlebrow guru, orchestrating these disparate voices into a merely edifying conversation that tries too hard to make Genesis into a weekly supplement to Time magazine--as when, in speaking of the temptation of the first couple, Moyers remarks rather simplistically, ""Genesis confronts us with many tempting questions."" (Oct.) FYI: Doubleday is simultaneously releasing a study guide for discussion groups and for personal use, Talking About Genesis: A Guide ($4.95 paper ISBN 0-385-48580-8), as well as a 10-cassette audio version of Genesis: A Living Conversation ($29.95 ISBN 0-553-47725-0).
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996