The most recent book of Fox News host Bill O’Reilly is landing in a familiar spot. “Killing Jesus: A History” (written with Martin Dugard) is No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list under the category of hardcover nonfiction, among other categories. As noted in this cable-news-books roundup, “Killing Jesus” and the other “Killing” iterations (Lincoln, Kennedy) may not advance the scholarship on their respective topics, but who’ll take issue with millions of Americans getting a quick-read tutorial on history via O’Reilly?
The only drawbacks are the tics that O’Reilly insists upon seeding his pages. In “Killing Kennedy,” for example, O’Reilly marked time via imminent death. This line captures the strategy: “The man with fewer than three years to live has his left hand on the Bible.” I counted 16 similar instances in the book, including this one: “The president has no way of knowing that he will celebrate this special day [his birthday] just one more time.” And this one, toward the end: “The man with nine days to live admires Greta Garbo….”
The mildly distracting literary quirk in “Killing Jesus” tends to show up at the beginning of sentences: “So it is that the tough, loyal, muscled men of Legio XIII are drilled in the art of battle strategy…” Several pages later: “So it is that the new Roman Empire is ruled by just one all-powerful man.…” Plus: “And so it is that Simon — whom Jesus renames Peter, meaning ‘rock’ — becomes Jesus’s first disciple.”
And so it was that one reviewer came to find 16 or so “so it is” constructions in “Killing Jesus.”
“So it is that” is a four-word clump of throat-clearing mumbo-jumbo. Why O’Reilly grew so fond of the construction was among the questions that the Erik Wemple Blog planned to put before the author-cum-cable host, before being turned down for such interview. Absent O’Reilly’s input, we’ll just have to guess that he was trying to craft something of a retroactive cliché, a little riff that would sound impressive in a book about antiquity. Whatever the motivation, the repeated uses lend credence to what O’Reilly once told the New York Times: “Nobody edits me.”