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Author Jeff Martin shares his short story, “Winebibber,” crafted with forty passages interwoven from the book of Proverbs.

Proverbs 1:10

Proverbs 1:15-16

Proverbs 1:22

Proverbs 2:7

Proverbs 3:13

Proverbs 3:25

Proverbs 3:33

Proverbs 5:16

Proverbs 8:7

Proverbs 8:10

Proverbs 9:10-11

Proverbs 10:27-30

Winebibber

By 

Jeff Martin

Credits: 

Curated by: 

Laura Eve Engel

2016

Short Story

Image by Giorgio Trovato

Primary Scripture

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As a fiction writer, the wisdom books of the Bible often frustrate me because of their lack of narrative—that is, there’s no story to be found in Proverbs, just as there isn’t any to be had in Wisdom or Sirach or the Psalms. If you want a plot in this stretch of the Old Testament, your best bet is Job, which has cause and effect, even if the causes are ultimately inexplicable. If you’re willing to scrap a bit more for your plot or like unusual narrative structures, you might be able to do something with Song of Songs or Ecclesiastes. But for the most part, what you’ll be reading is lists, many of which, as in Proverbs, are happy to repeat their ideas ceaselessly and with only the slightest variations. Nor are those repetitions necessarily profound—in some ways, Proverbs could be whittled down to this: “The righteous and the just will be okay. But the wicked and the slothful are up the creek.”


This drove me nuts. Why spend 920 verses making the same few generic points?


So it interested me to learn that Hebrew has a number of variations for the term “byword”—a word or phrase (like a proverb) that we use frequently. Of course one of those variations can be translated as “proverb.” But another can be translated as “taunt.” And that’s what struck me the most about Proverbs—that the overabundance of generic advice felt like a taunt to the reader.


Once I had that focus, the challenge was to herd the 40 verses I chose into a short story, i.e, a narrative, which is not their natural environment. Doing so was a blast.


Lastly, I’ll say this: the story’s engine runs almost entirely on taking the verses literally, which is probably the worst way to read any kind of religious text. But I also think there’s something to be gained from exploring how these sayings would fare when dropped into the living world.




Spark Notes

The Artist's Reflection

Jeff Martin co-directs the UVA Young Writers Workshop and has been published in New England ReviewAlaska Quarterly Review, and No Tokens Journal, among others. Find more of his work online at readjeffmartin.com.



Jeff Martin

About the Artist

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Jeff Martin

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