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Poet Robert Pinsky takes on another poet, King David of the Bible - and of the Psalms - in his "Life of David."

From: Jenny Attiyeh
Length: 28:26

Former poet laureate Robert Pinsky tackles King David of the Bible - the shepherd, poet, warrior and adulterer - in his "Life of David."

Pinsky_small Former poet laureate Robert Pinsky tackles King David of the Bible - the shepherd, poet, warrior and adulterer - in his "Life of David." Is David a legend? A real, flesh and blood warrior who killed Goliath, and united the 12 Jewish tribes into one nation? Robert Pinsky delves into these questions, and into David's story, with relish. David's story has been told many times, and the tale has changed with each telling. There's the David of the Hebrew Bible, and another version of his life in the Talmud. We know he slept with Bathsheba, but was this a sin? An act of love? Of violence? It depends on whom you ask. David, who lived about 3000 years ago, was beloved of God, and as a result, he got away with more than his share. He was a seductive, wily politician, a doting father, a bitter old man. These contradictions in David's character spur Pinsky on, and he adds his own twist to the tale, as you will hear!

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Former poet laureate Robert Pinsky tackles King David of the Bible - the shepherd, poet, warrior and adulterer - in his "Life of David." Is David a legend? A real, flesh and blood warrior who killed Goliath, and united the 12 Jewish tribes into one nation? Robert Pinsky delves into these questions, and into David's story, with relish. David's story has been told many times, and the tale has changed with each telling. There's the David of the Hebrew Bible, and another version of his life in the Talmud. We know he slept with Bathsheba, but was this a sin? An act of love? Of violence? It depends on whom you ask. David, who lived about 3000 years ago, was beloved of God, and as a result, he got away with more than his share. He was a seductive, wily politician, a doting father, a bitter old man. These contradictions in David's character spur Pinsky on, and he adds his own twist to the tale, as you will hear!

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A Great Conversation

To listen to a former poet laureate – also a major translator of Dante, a professor at Boston University and a critic who has written for the “New York Times Book Review” – discourse about the Biblical King David could be an über-boring, -pompous experience. On the contrary, Jenny Attiyeh’s 28-minute piece rocks. She not only asks her guest Robert Pinsky the right questions; he answers them with his characteristic rollicking street smarts.

For example, drawing on his new book, “The Life of David,” Pinsky is less interested in David as a pious figure, “the one who is beloved,” which his Hebrew name literally means. Neither is Pinsky’s David a stock figure of the diminutive boy who killed Goliath. Instead, Pinsky views David as a warlord, “a big shot,” even “a thug.” To hear him talk, you might consider a gangster like Meyer Lansky a distant relative of the king who bedded Bathsheba. For that matter, Pinsky sees David’s relationship with Bathsheba as having less to do with love than with lust.

Unlike a theologian or a rabbi, Pinsky is spellbound by stories about David. Insofar as stories derive from imagination, Pinsky talks about the paradoxes and contradictions of a figure as complex as one of our Founding Fathers, say, George Washington – or else King Leopold of Africa who was, for all the good he apparently did, an “appalling man.”

Fundamentalists and diehard knee benders might well object to the description of David as being involved in the “pragmatic ways of a warrior-chieftain.” It is precisely David's – and Pinsky’s – pragmatism, their worldly wisdom, that light up Attiyeh’s interview with multiple laser beams and make her conversation with Pinsky part of a great conversation about David that’s been going on for the past 3000 years.

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