I wrote earlier that I’d started a novel based on the King David story. It’s a few month later, and I’m on the third draft, middle of chapter 11. Once starting rewrites, they tend to go on and on.
Meantime, I’ve read two King David novels. One, by Joseph Heller (he of CATCH-22), was a rambling excuse to write some sexy stuff and mock a supposed hero—which is a ready temptation to anyone who’s still recalling the Sunday School version. The second, THE KING DAVID REPORT by a German novelist Stefan Heym, is better written but more about the narrator’s challenge of writing truth under an authoritarian regime; he stays at a distance from the main character. Both useful, though, in clarifying what I don’t want to do. Also I’ve read some useful Biblical commentaries. And two movies, both unmentionable.
I’ve often said that I rarely write what I know but more what I WANT to know. I may have some notion at the outset what attracts me to a subject, but it’s only in the writing that I slowly come to know my intentions. In this, certainly the story itself is compelling, enough incidents for at least a year-long miniseries or a five-hour movie of Russian angst.
It’s based on the Biblical story (I and II SAMUEL and the start of I KINGS), though not a substitute for it. it’s very much worth a read (NOT the sweet shepherd boy impelled by faith). Great mythic storytelling, certainly on a par with Homeric saga and a lot shorter.
My version, I guess, is more like a jazz riff on a standard tune: it’s certainly not the original, but it hits the needed notes for recognition, and it’s what the story means to me. It alternates between a straight third-person narrative and the first-person voice of the old man trying to fathom the meaning of his life. Being an old man trying to fathom the meaning of my life, I empathize—even though I haven’t achieved a kingship or slain a single Philistine.
Neither of our cats give a damn for what we write. They parade across the keyboard and sniff the hand that makes the typos. It matters not that our words are deathless, that when we finish this book no one is likely to read it, or if they do, it may lie on their stomachs like the monsters of Beowulf, slain just for the hell of it.
The trick is to take on the cats’ objective attitude while continuing my tatter on the keys.