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10.31.2005 

Red Tent

I've recently been reading Red Tent, a novel by Anita Diamant that retells the events of Jacob and his wives from the perspective of Dinah, the daughter of Leah. The story is well-written, and I generally enjoy reading it, especially as it tries to recreate the "feeling" of the biblical world by filling in the gaps of the biblical narrative. But as I read the story I am struck by how little of this "feeling" the Bible attempts to convey, and how foreign its literary form and concerns are from that of the modern novel, which Red Tent is a great example of. Next to the richness of detail and emotion recorded in Red Tent, Genesis seems sparse and empty. But somehow, the biblical story also carries a great deal more weight than the modern story. Yes, we ought to read the Bible as "literature," but we have to read it on its own terms...it is not just a story, but its own kind of story.

I'm also struck by how little concerned with history the biblical story is. Where Red Tent is constantly filling in the details of the story of Jacob's marriages and providing plausible motivations for why things happened the way they did, Genesis is not much concerned with this at all, but rather shows only those actions and details which are absolutely essential to its story. So, biblical narrative is not like modern literature or modern history, but something else entirely, it seems--with its own questions and concerns.

That's really cool, how you explained it.

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