Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Job: Based on a True Story (I Mean, This is Bound to Have Happened Somewhere) / Craig Davis

Reviewed by: Arthur Graham

Genre: Christian Fiction

Approximate word count: 30-35,000

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Craig Davis was born and bred in Memphis, TN, land of Elvis and pulled pork, although neither of them ever did him any good. After earning bachelor’s and graduate degrees at the University of Missouri, he toiled for 20 years at newspapers, and has spent a lifetime in biblical scholarship. An amateur musician, he was once wrestled to the ground by a set of bagpipes. He is the father of two grown daughters and owner of one dog who refuses to grow up.


“Joe B.” is Vice President of Development of International Integration of Core Technological Orientation (Emerging Nations Division) at Universal Whirligig – that is, until a jealous coworker has him demoted to mail clerk....


Davis writes with colorful description, measured pace, and a careful balance of comedy and drama, making The Job a quick, easy read that is bound to please a variety of readers. That said, some will no doubt have the same difficulty with this book as the one that originally inspired it.

About a third of the way in, it finally dawned on me that the trials and tribulations of Joe B. were a modern retelling of Job. In retrospect, this seems rather obvious (faithful servant is wrongly punished, perseveres and finds reward), so either I need to start going to church more often, or the motif is simply too common to pin on any one ancient belief system. The problem is likely a combination of the two, since A) I am not a Christian, and B) Job is not the first and only fictional character to experience a crisis of faith after hitting a stretch of bad luck (see Sumer and Babylon for earlier examples).

There are some fine bits of existential humor peppered throughout, which tend to pop up in the titular character’s questioning of his employer’s (read: God’s) master plan. Still, I could only take so many of these circular debates before I’d heard enough about this “Big Boss” and his unquestionable, mysterious ways.

As I read further, I had to wonder – is there even an analogy to be made between the supposed creator of the universe and a company’s CEO? Do the better lessons of the “Good Book” have any application to modern day capitalism? I’m certainly not an expert on the subject, but I do seem to recall something about a rich man, a needle, and a camel.... If the celestial penthouse of Universal Whirligig is meant to symbolize Heaven, and the dreary basement mailroom is meant to represent Hell (or at least Purgatory, as Joe B. thinks of it), then what is the connection implied between riches and righteousness? While I sincerely doubt that this was the author’s intent, the subtext is plain to see – Christ and capital go hand in hand.

I can think of one rabblerousing, Jewish hippy who might be inclined to disagree.

Given the gravity of the source material, I also found it difficult to sympathize as much with Joe B. After all, he is not half as beset with afflictions as the biblical Job. Sure, he may suffer metaphorical boils, and he certainly takes a pay cut in his fall from grace, but good health and a living wage are still more than many Americans can boast these days. Even after his demotion, he gets to keep his insurance and retirement benefits. Boo hoo, right?

To be fair, The Job does succeed in what it sets out to accomplish – a clever, well-written remake of an old story. Ultimately, though, it comes off as one very tenuous, very tedious parable. For all its philosophizing, the moral of the story is deceptively simple: The boss is always right, so you don’t question the boss. Coming from a religion based upon obedience to patriarchy, this shouldn’t be particularly surprising. Then again, as a 21st century writer, the least Davis could’ve done was finally give “Job’s wife” a name.

Format/Typo Issues:

A handful of typos and formatting errors.

Rating: *** Three stars

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