DAV: A Novel


I WROTE A LOT OF STORIES about biblical characters at one time. A couple of these—Adam and Noh—end up as parts of Elsewhere, as I hope you will see (and enjoy). Dav too takes much the same idiosyncratic slant on the story of King David, but his novel is different: It's longer and its narrator is a little unexpected. His story's told by a teenage girl possessed of the romantic cynicism and keen (and embarrassing to her elders) insight which are the birthright of any decent young woman in 1000 BC or 2013.

To explain. While I was writing these out-of-the-ordinary Bible stories, I happened to read a more or less scholarly work called The Book of J, by Harold Bloom and David Rosenberg. The book was based on the authors' study of biblical research and the belief that, during King David's reign, several writer-editors composed different sections of the Bible's first five books (the Torah or Pentateuch). These ancient contributors could be detected, scholars argued, by their distinct stylistic personae, and researchers had given these unknown biblical authors lettered names to tell them apart. One such writer-editor was given the letter "J." This writer's highly distinctive and colorful style led Bloom and Rosenberg to speculate that "J" was a woman. (Bloom has a reputation for upsetting people.)

These scholarly musings provided the seed for Dav. I wondered what King David's story would be like if it were told through the eyes of a very young woman. What if J were the daughter of Dav's Chamberlain, for instance, with access to anyone and anyplace in Jerusalem? J began to take on a personality, along with a name, Jasmine, or better still, Yasmin.

Although the novel that resulted is definitely about King David of the Bible, it's equally about Yasmin. This turn of events was determined by Yasmin. She became that wonderful character beloved of novelists: One who simply launches a narrative insurrection and takes over the telling of her own tale.

So they're both here, Dav and Dav's Torah-writing chronicler,Yasmin. I will leave it to the discerning reader as to which of these fascinating 2000-year-old people is the most appealing.

Finally, a disclosure: I am now aware that Joseph Heller also wrote a novel about King David,God Knows, at roughly the same time I wrote Dav. My agent informed me of this when a house editor phoned her to deliver that news that my book had already been "done." I then read Heller's novel, which is a good and funny book, as one would expect from Joseph Heller. But I honestly don't think the novels are much alike except both of us are drinking from the same timeless and much frequented biblical well. There's that and also the fact we both have an occasional tendency to channel the same Catskills comedian working the resort circuit in the summer of 1958. Anyway, Yasmin had scooped both of us by two millenia. Her riveting storyline has seduced scores of writers and painters who have rewritten and re-envisioned Dav's life. This isn't surprising: Most writers recognize a potential best-seller when they see one. You can't beat a story that contains God and sex and plenty of uplifting violence. In Heller's case and in mine, you get comedy on the side.