Jack Kerouac (1922-1969), the central figure of the Beat Generation, was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1922 and died in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1969. Among his many novels are On the Road, The Dharma Bums, Big Sur, and Visions of Cody.
Crumb's work here is copious and fine, but the serious Crumb collector should know that "R. Crumb's Kafka" is identical in every way (except for title and cover art) to "Introducing Kafka" (US, 1993), as is clearly stated on the new version's copyright page. The book was first published in the UK, in 1993, under the title "Kafka for Beginners."
This is a great literary biography of Franz Kafka, written by David Zane Mairowitz, that is fantastically illustrated by Robert Crumb. It is an outstanding collaboration between a writer and artist, where each person's work enhances the finished product far more than just the sum of the parts. Mairowitz is a Kafka scholar whose words come to life with the brilliant illustrations of R. Crumb. Together they trace Kafka's life, his family and social influences, his relationships with women, and their effects on his various works. Truly a delightful introduction to Kafka and his writings that will serve as a model for future literary introductions.
R. CRUMB'S KAFKA is an odd mixture of biography and analysis illustrated in a variety of ways by the artist Robert Crumb. Not quite a satisfying read, with a few too many psychological evaluations by the author; the book does shine when Crumb illustrates his abridged versions of Kafka's work. The emotional detail of the drawings, where Crumb can focus on anger, lust, or terror, are excellent and are a fitting compliment to Kafka's tales of alienation. The text often just gets in the way becoming a distraction; Crumb's work is often fettered by trying to serve the text. A better book would have been a full blown adaptation of Kafka by Crumb without the forced psychological insights that would be a better fit for some master's thesis.
I found this book an extremely interesting way to introduce Franz Kafka to those who know nothing, or next to nothing, about him. Not only is it a brief but inclusive biography, but it also contains the plots of many of his works, all quite well illustrated by R. Crumb. While purists may complain about the perceived trivializing of Kafka's works and life, I found this book a very good way to have those whose knowledge of Kafka is scant get some grounding into him, his life and times, and his writings. That, above all, is the true worth of this book.
Reviewed by: Tom Hendricks, Musea Review Service. Posted courtesy of the Underground Literary Alliance Book Review Blog.
Tom Hendricks is a ULA member. He has probably never met Robert Crumb, but might want to. I'd like to meet Robert Crumb.
What is it? : Franz Kafka's biography with text by David Mairowitz, and illustrations by celebrated underground comic artist Robert Crumb.
Technical Quality: High. Book is a well made, 175 page, trade paperback. Note the somewhat chilling cover with an orange Prague cityscape drawing , with a green insert of Kafka writing.
Innovative Quality: High. The book uses the graphic novel approach to tell the life story of the troubled but brilliant Franz Kafka. Crumb illustrates the main biographical events and portions from some of Kafka's most celebrated works.
Review: Three parts come together to make this a memorable and notable read: Franz Kafka's life and works, Robert Crumb's illustrations on every page, and an informative biographical text by David Zane Mairowitz.
Mairowitz writes: "Before ever becoming the ADJECTIVE (Kafkaesque) Franz Kafka (1883-1924) was a Jew from Prague, born into its inescapable tradition of story-tellers and fantasists, ghetto-dwellers and eternal refugees. His Prague, "a little mother' with 'claws' was a place that suffocated him, but where he nonetheless chose to live all but the last eight months of his life."
That well sums up a lot of the main threads of Kafka's life too. He was a Jew in a country that more and more hated and persecuted the Jews. He had an oppressive and abusive father that, like Prague, he could never escape.Read more ›