I was disappointed by Marilynne Robinson’s Reading Genesis, though that may have less to do with the quality of Robinson’s book than with my way of thinking about the Bible. Robinson proceeds by a kind of Lockean association of ideas: on one (typical) page a thought about Joseph and his brothers reminds her Adam and Eve, who remind her of Jacob and Esau, who remind her of Hagar, who leads her back to Adam and Eve … the connections are of course perfectly legitimate, but to treat the text in this leaping sort of way causes me to lose sight of the actual linear development of the narrative. My buddy Austin Kleon has taught me in these circumstances not to take out my frustrations on the book but to say with a gentle shrug, “It wasn’t for me.” 

So I thought I should take this as a Divine Hint: I decided to go back and, for the first time in many years, read Robert Alter’s translation of the Pentateuch. I am not sure I have ever read it cover-to-cover. I see that I have a good many notes inscribed in my copy … notes I don’t remember making; and almost all of these are from his introductions to the books. So perhaps I have never read the actual translation, and I certainly haven’t done so from beginning to end.  

Anyway: I’m going to read Alter’s Pentateuch — just that: no commentaries, no scholarly treatises — and I’m going to blog about reading it. Intermittently, maybe. But if you’re interested, stay tuned.