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The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb Hardcover – October 19, 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 275 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Far removed from the satirical reimagining some might expect from the father of underground comix, Crumb's long-awaited take on the first book of the Bible presents the artist's own sensitive, visually intense reflections. Where most visual adaptations edit down their prose sources, Crumb has, strikingly, included every word of the Book of Genesis within his first major book-length work. His humanistic visual response to this religious text imbues even briefly mentioned biblical characters with unique faces and attitudes, and his renderings of the book's more storied personalities draw out momentous emotions inspired by the book's inherent drama. Throughout, Genesis is a virtual portfolio of Crumb's career-long effort to instill fluid cartoon drawing with carefully rendered lifelike detail. Some might miss Crumb's full stylistic and tonal range, but the source's narrative sweep includes moments of sex and scandal that recall the artist's more notorious comics. Indeed, this monumental visual adaptation's basic strategy may subvert simply by demanding a reconsideration of its source, one that continues to motivate the complex cultural struggles that have, for decades, preoccupied this master cartoonist's landmark work. (Oct.)
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“Starred Review. Crumb’s vivid visual characterizations of the myriad characters, pious and wicked, make the most striking impression. His distinctive, highly rendered drawing style imparts a physicality that few other illustrated versions of this often retold chronicle have possessed. The centenarian elders show every one of their years, and the women, from Eve to Rachel, are as solidly sensual as any others Crumb has so famously drawn.” (Booklist)

“To say this book is a remarkable volume or even a landmark volume in comic art is somewhat of an understatement.... stands on its own as one of this century’s most ambitious artistic adaptations of the West’s oldest continuously told story.” (Paul Buhle - The Jewish Daily Forward)

“It’s a cartoonist’s equivalent of the Sistine Chapel. It’s awesome. Crumb has done a real artist’s turn here―he’s challenged himself and defied all expectation. ... I’ve read Genesis before. But never have I found it so compelling. By placing it squarely in the Middle East―and populating it with distinctively Semitic-looking people―Crumb makes it come alive brilliantly.” (Susan Jane Gilman - Morning Edition, NPR)

“[A] beautifully drawn and relentlessly faithful rendition of the first 50 chapters of the Bible by an apostle of the 1960s and sometimes profane progenitor of underground comics. Crumb has produced what could be the ultimate graphic novel.” (David Colton - USA Today)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (October 19, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393061027
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393061024
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 1 x 11.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (275 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,594 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Sorry to disagree with the previous review, but I think it needs to be said...if you love Crumb's art, you will love this book. I am stunned at the sheer volume of work it took to illustrate the thing. Awestruck, really. I've always loved Crumb's art and work, at first (when I was young) because he seemed so twisted and funny, but later, because I realized what a truly fine artist he is. I say, never mind the "is it passionate" crap.

In March of '09, some online articles were calling this upcoming work "subversive"... Not so. There's no intent to be comical here...or to insult Judeo-Christian theology. It seems, in every sense, to be a legitimate illustration of the Book of Genesis. And, I found it beautiful, because Crumb's attention to visual detail is beautiful.

Crumb relies on two sources for the translation including the King James version, and more so, Robert Alter's "The Five Books Of Moses". So, sure, there may be some disagreement in translation for individuals who are version specific. I would suggest we look past that and just enjoy the book for its merits and Crumb's talent.

One should be aware that a few panels may be considered "steamy" for younger children. Some nudity appears and, for instance, when in Chapter 19 it is written that Lot's daughters gave their father wine to drink and then lay with him, Crumb illustrates it. It is my belief, however, that Crumb's intent here is simply illustration, not subversion.

At any rate, it is an amazing work of art, not to mention a book of many important stories.
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Format: Hardcover
When R. Crumb set out to create an illustrated Genesis, he planned two years for the project.

Five years later we have what amounts to a cartoonist's answer to the Sistene Chapel, audicious and bold I guess in the same way that great art always seems to be audacious and bold.

For those who would suggest that the work satirzes its material or attempts to demean the underlying Biblical text I would suggest they re-read their Genesis. Where the Bible says Judah had relations with his daughter Tamar thinking her a cultic prostitute, the illustrations show Judah having relations with Tamar thinking her a cultic prostitute. Where the Bible says Lot while drunk had relations with each of his daughters in a cave, the illustrations show Lot while drunk having relations with each of his daughters in cave.

In this way, and with all due respect, those offended by Crumb illustrations should probably in fact be offended by the text as well.

If this material was noteworthy only for its prurient value, it would be easy to dismiss but the work is filled with nuance and mood reflecting the nuance and mood of the underlying text. For example, the anxious confabulation of Adam and Eve when confronted by God for eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is readily revealed in their faces (including a glance of reproof by Eve at having been blamed by Adam). Later we see Abraham in sorrow as he contemplates the problems of his people, dimly depicted as the hallow faced of the Holocaust we have become so familiar with.

In all this work ably succeeds in doing what it set out to do: to provide an illustrated version of Genesis. That it was produced by an atheist does not rob it of any of its artistic potential nor does it prevent us from appreciating it on whatever level we may choose to do so.
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Format: Hardcover
As soon as I received my copy of Crumb's masterpiece, four years in the making, I knew I would want to review his creation, taking the opportunity to share my appreciation for the strange, insightful man who visualized this important story and breathed life into it, like Yahweh did to the mud-man.
It is important to be clear that this is not a "comic book" version of Genesis for kids, paraphrasing and simplifying the story, leaving out the disturbing parts. Nor is it an irreverent, witty satire a la Monty Python. No, as Crumb says in the introduction, his basic approach was that of an illustrator, not of a redactor, or paraphraser. He takes the story as given to him. But the illustrator picks and chooses what to draw, which images the writings bring to his or her mind, and how to render the material. As near as I can tell, an essentially complete English text of Genesis is here, and it is the source of all written material, except for Crumb's footnotes which he adds to explain the Hebrew original.

It should be pointed out early in this review that illustrating Genesis certainly gives R. Crumb a chance to draw voluptuous, high-breasted women with big fine legs and bubble butts. Well, I'm sure he had some fun with this aspect, and the project certainly gave him a chance to indulge it. Because there is plenty of sex in Genesis; Crumb illustrates the text, never inventing any gratuitous lust. It certainly reminded me how much Genesis is concerned with procreation, marriage, and whose children were whose. Up until after the Flood, Yahweh's only command is 'Be fruitful and multiply.' So Crumb's proclivities were appropriate to this project, and faithful to the text. There is nothing 'dirty' in any thing he draws in this book.
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