A short novel of growth and trial and growth and…
A Popular Tale is a short (185 pp) novel based structurally and thematically on the Gospel of Matthew, the name from the Hebrew (mattithyâh (מַתִּתְיָה)), meaning ‘gift of G-d’ which is the origin of the family name Matko.
With five narrative sections and five teaching sections – dealing with such existential concerns as race, sex/gender, identity, the environment, time, and G-d – and beginning with a genealogy, the first half of the chiastic structure of A Popular Tale traces the family drama of infancy and childhood in its ‘chapter and verse’ upbringing. The second half culminates in rebellion, trial, and ensuing punishment, all in an ongoing search for identity, represented in the text by a variety of prose styles indicative of and representing the experimentation of adolescence. As ‘the only living novel’, or a novel which seeks not only to embrace change but to change under the eyes that read it, A Popular Tale is a bildungsroman detailing the idealism of youth and the madness of society, that doesn’t believe in the veracity of memory and that understands you are not the stories you tell, not even to yourself about yourself. Written in the Biblical tradition, in a manner comparable to how twentieth-century modernists used ancient myth to illuminate their world and reality, I use the myths of present U.S. society – in particular the story of the G-d Jesus – to elucidate our present world and reality, hopefully to point a way beyond. Anti-deist and questioning, A Popular Tale seeks to be a gospel for the world of today, forging the next stage of the Abrahamic tradition with its historical tradition of progressive symbolic substitution.
The Gospel of Matthew is itself a literary master-work, with a chiastic structure and an enlivening use of repetition, not even taking into account the effect that it has had historically. Some studies of interest:
–Anderson, Janice Capel, Matthew’s Narrative Web, Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1994.
–Goulder, Michael D., Midrash and Lection in Matthew. Eugene, Or.: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1974.
–Goulder, Michael D., The Evangelists’ Calendar: A Lectionary Explanation of the Development of Scripture. London: SPCK, 1978.
–Goulder, Michael D., “Sections and Lections in Matthew.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament. 2000 22: 79.
–Horsley, Richard A., Religion and Empire. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003.
–Kingsbury, Jack Dean, Matthew As Story. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988.