The Dead Sea Scroll Palindromes


133 pages
ISBN 1-895854-49-0
DDC 220'.0207




Edited by Howard Richler
Illustrations by Danny Shanahan
Reviewed by Richard C. Smith

Richard C. Smith is a professor in the Classics Department of the
University of Alberta.


For those with a special kind of literary taste, which achieves a
heartfelt delight in the artful manipulation of words and phrases, the
creation of statements that are identical when read backward or forward
makes possible treasure-troves of humor on almost any subject. The
source for Howard Richler and New Yorker cartoonist Danny Shanahan’s
palindromes is supposedly an unpublished Dead Sea Scroll written not
only in palindromes but also in English and covering not only the Hebrew
Bible but also the New Testament.

In total, there are 70 palindromes here, ranging from Genesis to
Revelations [sic], accompanied by commentary and (for the most part)
illustrations in typical New Yorker style. We read of God getting a
“Big Bang” out of creating the universe and of Noah’s wife,
“Joan of Ark,” in the commentaries on sometimes original and
sometimes only slightly modified traditional palindromes such as
“Madam, I’m Adam” (changed to “Madam, in Eden I’m Adam”). In
the last offering, on Revelations [sic], however, like Homer, the
“scroll” nods with “Egad, a base note denotes a bad age.”

One verbally athletic way to avoid pomposity is to “drop back and
pun.” With the aid of Richler and Shanahan, we can not only pun but


“The Dead Sea Scroll Palindromes,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 20, 2024,