What is your book about?
My book is about story of David, the way you have never heard it before: from the king himself, telling the unofficial version, the one he never allowed his court scribes to recount. In his mind, history is written to praise the victorious—but at the last stretch of his illustrious life, he feels an irresistible urge to tell the truth. In the first volume, Rise to Power, David gives you a fascinating account of his early years, culminating with a tribal coronation. Rooted in ancient lore, his is a surprisingly modern memoir.
In an era of cruelty, when destroying the enemy is deemed a sacred directive, the slayer of Goliath finds a way to become larger than life. His search for a path to power leads him in ways that are, at times, scandalous. Notorious for his contradictions, David is seen by others as a gifted court entertainer, a successful captain in Saul’s army, a cunning fugitive, a traitor leading a gang of felons, and a ruthless raider of neighboring towns who leaves no witnesses behind.
How does he see himself, during this first phase of his life? With his hands stained with blood, can he find an inner balance between conflicting drives: his ambition for the crown, his determination to survive the conflict with Saul, and his longing for purity, for a touch of the divine, as expressed so lyrically in his psalms and music?
What inspired you to write this particular series?
I am fascinated by the complexity of this character, who at many points along the way he finds himself at a crossroad, torn between his political ambitions, and the divine call of his inspired work, as a poet and musician.
At the same time, I found myself intrigued by the role of history in this story. David sees the struggle between him and the king he succeeded as a struggle between two contending versions of history:
What is at stake here is the virtue of the office, the sanctity of the crown, which I tried to preserve most of the time—but certainly not always… My appetite for sin would get out of control, and threaten to undermine my best efforts to establish myself, establish my glory for all to cherish. Even so, future generations must revere my name.
Hell, I made sure of that.
At the time I gave orders to imprison quite a few of my court historians, for no better reason than a misspelling, or a chance error in judgement, for which they tried to apologize profusely. Of course, to no avail. They never saw the light of day again. I knew I was right, because who are they to strive for something as misleading as reporting the bare facts?
Both Saul and I were anointed to rule the nation, which without fail caused a civil war. We fought over something larger than the crown. Ours was a battle between two contending versions of history. The outcome would decide who would be called a hero and who—a villain.
And having won that struggle, I was not about to allow the scribes in my court to report any faults in me, any wrongdoings. My record would be clean. There was, I decided, no truth other than mine.
Do you need visual media to describe people or places?
The story of David has inspired artists throughout the history of art, and my writing has a lot of highly visual references to many of these art pieces. Here, for example, is a reference to Michalangelo’s David:
“I catch sight of the reflection, my reflection in his eyes. In a flash I know Saul sees me as a danger to him. He fears me, he prays for my demise, and at the same time he adores me, too. In me he hopes to capture the fading image of that which is lost to him. His youth.
I ask myself, what makes him so jealous of me? What is he thinking?
Perhaps this: there is David, a young boy with a glint in his eyes. Morning breeze plays with his curls. It breathes words of hope and promise in his ear.
Yet unscarred by battle, his skin is smooth. His muscles are flexible, his hands strong. They are large, larger than you would expect for such a slender body. They are the hands of a killer.
There is David. Narrowing his eyes to focus them at the enemy, the boy is searching for a way to change, to become that which is not: larger than life. There he stands, ready for the kill.
I smile at Saul. He is slow to smile back.”
And here, a reference to Bernini’s David:
I must have lost my mind, because I leap over the brook and run quickly towards him. And I put my hand in my bag and take out one of my pebbles and sling it.
It is now that time starts slowing down. With sharp, heightened senses I feel the morning breeze playing with my curls, brushing them this way and that, down to the nape of my neck. Here I am, twisting over my legs, wringing my body in a tortuous effort to gather momentum, to let a pebble fly. This, I tell myself, is no dream. This is for real. I am aiming to slay a giant.
If I live, someone should sculpt me in this pose, just so.
What project(s) are you working on now?
I am writing the next volume of the series, The David Chronicles. Its title is A Peek at Bathsheba. Here is an excerpt:
Climbing up I imagined the view I would have up there, at the top of the world. And now, having achieved victory, I am beginning to come down, seeking reflection.
From outside the cave comes the hoot of an owl. Outlined against a dreamy moonlight, it strikes an upright stance, and turns its large, broad head to face me. Its gaze meets mine. At the moment I feel a strange affinity to this bird of prey. Like me, it must cherish its solitude.
And as it spreads its feathers I think I see out there, behind the flutter, a curvaceous outline of a nude. I ache to touch her flesh. It is glowing with warm, reddish hues of terra-cotta. Her breasts are tipped with gold. As if springing to life out of some Babylonian plaque, there she stands, surrounded by owls.
There she is, my Queen of the Night.
“Bathsheba,” I whisper, but my voice gets lost in the vacuous space.
A moment later, the owl takes off. It rises away in its silent flight, and the illusive light of the moon starts dimming out.