The Historical David, by Joel Baden

Fall books

The public has a taste for biographies of great people who on closer inspection turn out to be not so great after all. The curtain has been pulled back on Thomas Jefferson, Bill Clinton, Mother Teresa and even Jesus.

We should be weary of the revelations: home-run hitters admit to using performance-enhancing drugs, politicians turn out to have swindled us, trusted clergy and coaches are found to have misbehaved. Our craving to hear more debunking tells us a lot about our low estimate of human nature and about the feeble expectations we have of ourselves. But it also reveals a moral core. We are appalled by the revelations because we know not to cheat; we shake our heads because we know how to be good and we want to be good.


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