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Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bible!

3.35 of 5 stars 3.35  ·  rating details  ·  918 ratings  ·  189 reviews
A hilarious re-imagining of the heroes of the Old Testament for a modern world-and the neurotic, demanding reader.
In the beginning...there was humor.
Sure, it's the foundation for much of Western morality and the cornerstone of world literature. But let's face it: the Bible always needed punching up. Plus, it raised quite a few questions that a modern world refuses to i...more
ebook, 256 pages
Published April 1st 2009 by Riverhead Books
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Short review.

The Bible is a source for many things. Irrational thought, bigotry, hope and solace, etc., It is also a rich ground for fictional re-workings. It's like the authors of that silly book wanted to leave it open ended enough to ensure a healthy amount of 'fan-fiction' would get written to fill in all of the gaps. Many interesting works have been done that use the rough outlines of stories contained in the pages of that dusty old book to flesh out the vague and weak narratives or to spin...more
- The book wins at poignant details: it's sweet and sad and funny – I like the first story, which is really snarky about his family, but in a loving way that really discreetly brings out some of what amazes him about his father, while pretending to deride. Sneaky filial affection!

- This is also one of those books that manage not to make anyone unlikeable, even when two characters are pitted against one another

- Perhaps too many stories revolve around awkward, always failing heroes who end up bei...more
Tominda Adkins
I first heard about this book on NPR, when Goldstein himself did a reading of the first chapter. His deadpan delivery compelled me to hunt down the book, and to my delight, his voice replaced the default voice in my head as I happily read.

I enjoyed this little gem. The Adam and Eve bit was pitch-perfect and every bit as hilarious as I remembered. In each chapter, common next-door-neighbor character traits are woven into the personalities of the Biblical figures some of us grew up with. I especia...more
This book was hilarious.

It is not for those who cannot laugh at religion or enjoy some twists on old tales. For them it may border on offensive, although I wasn't offended not once, not ever.

The author kind of "re-wrote" the Old Testament.

His stories were easier and way more fun to read, and he applied a lot of modern psychology to explain the motives of the characters from Bible stories; I loved it.

The prologue introduces us to the author as a Jewish child learning religious stories from his f...more
Steph Munkachy
Hilarious and irreverent, Jonathan Goldstein rewrites classic stories from the the Old Testament in an entertaining and engaging way in this book. He makes big-name characters like Noah and Samson accessible to a modern audience by underlining their petty foibles and neuroses, poking fun at their day to day struggles, rather than extolling their virtues or using their pain to illustrate God's ultimate supremacy. What I enjoy about this book is that it's really all about the characters themselves...more
Jacob Seifert
While Goldstein is able to breathe considerable life and personality into many well-known biblical characters, I feel that his creativity and ambition generally runs short. Yes, the stories are funny most of the time, but the comedic effect relies on what are more caricature than character. That said, these caricatures do provide the reader with plenty of moments to reflect upon weighty matters of familial love, godly devotion/insanity, etc, but that reflection often comes from undermining what...more
Carolyn Gerk
Wow, did this book make me angry. It started off with a really dull prologue that I did not find very funny. Then came a retelling of Adam and Eve that was kind of cute. Cute, not terrible funny, though. I picked this book up and was curious about a humorous take on the bible. Then I read David Sedaris's review on the back. I like David Sedaris. David Sedaris is funny. Jonathon Goldstein is not. I spen so much time forcing myself to continue through each of these stories that were just ridiculou...more
Dawn Kaczmar
(review from

Jonathan Goldstein, contributing editor to NPR's This American Life, host of Wiretap and author of Lenny Bruce is Dead, has recently published Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bible!, a collection of short stories retelling Old Testament parables.

I've seen several reviewers refer to the book as both fun and funny- which it certainly is, but Goldstein's new book is truly so much more than that. The humor of these stories is naturally revealed through Gold...more
I had such high expectations for this book - perhaps that was the problem (my bad, I guess). Still, the edition I read includes promotional blurbs from David Sedaris and Sarah Vowell, so, what could go wrong? Well, other than the fact that I was bored silly reading it and raced through it just to get get to the finish line, not much. The jacket also says that the author has appeard on "This American Life" (again, what could go wrong?). Admittedly, his *voice* isn't coming to me in my head, unlik...more
Arthur Gershman
My 23 year old son turned me on to "Wiretap," the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) radio humor program of the author, Jonathan Goldstein (if that is your real name, Jonny).
On Goldstein's radio program, fantasy is blended with reality in such a fashion as to make you question everything you hear.
In the book, "Ladies & Gentlemen: The Bible," Goldstein offers his midrashim, or stories about stories in the Jewish Bible, from the viewpoint of the modern-day hipster.
They are refreshing in t...more
After hearing a presenter read a selection from Jonathan Goldstein at TIP (in Saskatoon) (you can listen to the original here), I knew that I had to check out one of his books. "Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bible!" did not disappoint. It was, by turns, whimsical, heartfelt, irreverent, and poignant in its retellings of various Old Testament tales (with my favourite being his sympathetic portrayal of Cain). While he occasionally fell victim to a small degree of stylistic predictability, an issue tha...more
I read Ladies And Gentleman The Bible by Jonathan Goldstein. Jonathan Goldstein re-imagines the Bible's greatest stores and heros suck as Jonathan wonders how Joseph explains Mary's pregnancy to the guys at work or how bored would a person get in a whale's stomach anyway.It adds a nice ray of sunshine because the Bible can tend to get pretty dark sometimes. I personally like this book and think its really funny, but the book can get pretty stale and you have to a good understanding of the Bible...more
Utter garbage. Only rated it one star because I couldn't go any lower. First of all, I have no problem with irreverance. (Well, I do, but that's something I have to deal with as a Christian. I find George Carlin hilarious, though, so you can't just dismiss me as an uptight Christian and ask why the heck I'm reading something like this anway.)

I was expecting this to be a good read. I'd read another summary of the Bible by David Plotz (can't recall the name just now), but I remember thinking it w...more
Noel Roy
Jonathan Goldstein takes stories from the old testament of the bible, stories many of us were taught as children, and re-contextualizes and re-interprets them for a modern audience. The biblical characters, originally static and flat characters used simply to advance the bible's plot, are developed into full fledged twentieth century-style literary characters- with all the neuroses, eccentricities and psychological conflicts one would expect. The stories are highly irreverent and sexualized, and...more
Ben Babcock
I love Bible stories. I have a vague memory of our family doctor's office, and how I would enjoy going there because there was a Children's Bible—or it might have just been the Old Testament—and I loved reading the story of Genesis from it. Of course, I was a child back then, and as my religious tendencies have gone from agnostic to atheistic, one might expect my enthusiasm for the Bible to dim. Quite the contrary, in fact. Regardless of one's religion, the Bible is one of the most important wor...more
Did you ever read a story in the Bible and wonder to yourself what the people were thinking about when they had to go through the things they did? I've always thought the characters in the Bible were a little flat, like the flannel cutout people who acted out the stories in Sunday School. Jonathan Goldstein fills in those gaps and makes Adam and Eve and Samson and Jonah and Joseph of Nazareth all seem like living people. Sometimes they are ridiculous people with strange thoughts and questionable...more
A rather amusing set of stories retold from the Bible, this book lacks that extra special something. I liked the idea and the stories were not bad, just not great. I liked that Adam was a big, stupid man and Eve was frustrated that she only had him to talk to. I liked that Cain and Abel turned into a story about the zen way of living. However, it did remind me of why I often don't like short stories. I don't feel like short stories have enough development, it often feels like authors rush throug...more
Feb 19, 2010 Jill rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Courtney
Goldstein revisits the most well-known stories from the Old Testament of Bible and tells them in his own words. He doesn't so much "modernize" them as he finds the underlying emotions and motivations for the main characters and polishes these so that we can understand them better. He re-imagines bit characters and through the lens of their understanding, gives us a different idea of who the main characters were.

I haven't had a chance to read the actual biblical passages side-by-side and can't re...more
Steven Pattison
Religion aside, just in a sense of storytelling I forgot how great and timeless the tales of Old Testament are.

However, this book by former producer of This American LIfe and host and creator of CBC radio show WireTap Jonathan Goldstein is hit or miss with it's satire of the Old T. It's easiest to write that I overall like the premise of the book more then the actual book itself.

The description on the back of the book reads in part "In this collection of short stories, Jonathan Goldstein re-imag...more
Aug 18, 2011 Kristin rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kristin by: heard it read on NPR
Shelves: short-fiction
I always love good revisionist writing, and Jonathan Goldstein was brave in re-imagining certain Old Testament stories in this text. While I found these stories somewhat irreverent, and definitely vulgar, I never thought of them as sacrilegious. I never found myself offended at what I read, because the author did not attempt to tell the reader more about God, but instead focused on a deeper description of the people portrayed in these stories. The David series lagged somewhat, as did the story o...more
Dave Morris
Imagine those old stories from the Bible as told by a very Jewish uncle who's pretty sure he read them once is as no compunction about making stuff up. Yep, you're close to this book.

Love the premise, and the preface is downright hilarious. The first story - Adam and Eve, of course - is wonderful, and the last - Mary's pregnancy and the events leading up to the manger, all from Joseph's point of view - is poignant to the point of beauty. In between, though, the book is spotty to the point of no...more
The author took an interesting concept - thinking about the 'ordinary' human feelings, motivations, & reactions of the people caught up in the extraordinary religious events - and ran with it. The results are uneven: sometimes the material was hilarious and/or poignant, sometimes (dare I say it?) merely male juvenile. Unevenness stretched to emphasis as well - sometimes admirably spare in placing the punchlines, sometimes overestimating the legs of a running gag.

Readers who will like this b...more
Reading the jacket of the book, I thought this would be a very fun tongue in cheek book. Of course I'd love to know how Jonah didn't get bored living in a whale all those years.

In reality, I found it pretty offensive. I was not offended because it was about religion but just how crass it was in general. For example when refering to the person who came up with the idea for the Tower of Babel, it goes on and on about how much he loves talking about his supposed medical issues and he talks about h...more
Series of short stories illustrating well known Bible stories, (Adam and Even, Noah, the Tower of Babel, etc,) with a decidedly modern slant. Using the framing device of a young Jewish boy recalling his father's outlandish and frequently unsatisfactory explanations, (David used a sling because it showed more pizzazz than a mundane stabbing), Goldstein ponders timeless questions of ethics and responsibility, often inverting the traditional view of good and bad guys. Would you stay inside the Ark...more
I will confess (hahaha) that I haven't read the bible, so it was fun to read Goldstein's humorous parody of some of its stories. I felt like I was learning a little as I read. One problem I had though was that it felt like some of the stories were just wry retellings that were not funny enough. Perhaps not ridiculous enough. It was almost like reading the actual bible at times and I wanted something beyond that, a real religion/Goldstein comedy mash-up.
Maybe after the greatness of Lenny Bruce i...more
Sep 01, 2009 Bean rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Recommended to Bean by: The nerdy kid at Borders.
Here's the gist... it's old testament stories re-written to be funny. And it works. As such, it's not great, but it's decent. The problem is that the stories are probably more interesting on their own.

For instance, in the story of King David (as in David and Goliath), David is hell bent on being funny. Incredibly funny. Is it purposely ironic that this story is probably the least funny one in the book?

The best story is the one of Joseph of Nazareth, and the jealousy he has because is wife is pr...more
Jan 27, 2010 Kate rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who want to laugh
Recommended to Kate by: NPR
I really enjoyed this book, but at times it became a little too crude for my book liking which is why I rated it 3 stars. I know, as someone who reads Chuck Palahniuk books I can't believe I'm saying that either, however it felt a little off putting with the stories being told. That said, this author makes the Bible stories hilarious, sweet, sad and honest. I really enjoyed the first one about Adam and Eve and the last one about Mary and Joseph. Maybe it's because they both dealt with relationsh...more
There is one line in his story about Adam and Eve that just cut to the core of what I love in a good insightful funny book. So I read more, hoping for more.
But no.
Joalby Phoenix
Great book proving that there can be found satire and comedy in anything. The book explores the most well-knows bible stories in a comedic humorous re-imagining and poses the questions How did Joseph react to Mary's initial reports of being spoken to by an angel and his insecurity at being able to put his anger issues aside to raise an "angel baby".

What must Jonah have smelt like for years after coming out of the great whale and why he had never been before married. The golden calf, Cain & A...more
This author has appeared on "This American Life" with some of these stories, which are essentially creative retellings of Bible stories. The basic tales are recognizable, but they are reframed in humorous and sometimes slightly irreverent ways. For example, King David's entire life is dictated by his intense desire to be a comedian. Samson is a big, dumb but lovable lug. Issac has issues stemming from when his father tried to kill him. I recommend that either you read this as an enteraining refr...more
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Radio Work

Many of Goldstein's pieces have been featured on the PRI radio show This American Life where he is a contributing editor. From 2000 to 2002 he was also a producer of the show.

Currently, Goldstein hosts a show on CBC Radio One called WireTap, a program featuring stories told over the phone. He was also the host of the CBC summer radio program Road Dot Trip in 2000 and has contributed to s...more
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“When he heard his father call out for Abel and he saw his borther go forth, it made him feel like he was nothing. He couldn’t even say that he felt like Cain anymore. One could not feel like Cain because it had no flavor. Cain was the absence of flavor. Cain was like saliva or a Wednesday.” 2 likes
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