Robert Alter’s Pen of Iron is a serious investigation of the influence of the King James translation of the Bible in American fiction. Alter focuses on Moby Dick, Absalom! Absalom! and Seize the Day. But he also gives considerable attention to other writers and works of fiction, including Hemingway, Cormac McCarthy, and the speeches of Abraham Lincoln.
Alter is a bit of an elitist, and seems to really like no writer or book wholeheartedly. He is pedantic, his favorite word is recondite, which means esoteric or difficult, which could very well characterize his analysis and prose. But Alter should be read. He should be read carefully and slowly. Few can delve into a topic as deeply and richly as he does. And in this book, which is really only a few quick snapshots of how the King James version of the bible enriched American literature, we can see his well-read, well-reasoned mind working at its best.
Although this book my not be the last word on this topic, it provides much food for thought.