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The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb Hardcover – October 19, 2009
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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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“The best place to witness Crumb's genius. Largely stripped of the sociopolitical context that has made his comics so controversial over the years, Genesis’ portraits of ancient men and women struggling to survive shows that his primary interest lies in chronicling the physical and mental experience of being human.”
“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.”
“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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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.
Crumb's earthy style lends itself well to the complex story of Genesis. Using Robert Alter's clear and modern translation, it is as easy to read as the illustrations to look at. That being said, Crumb does not try to white wash any of the more violent episodes. Even the more boring sections (e.g., long lists of begatting) are brought to life in a series of portraits rather than just repetitive names that have no meaning.
Crumb has clearly thought long about the meaning of the text. He is able to portray the emotion of the characters in a way that words can't. For example, in the story of Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac, the conflicting emotions play freely across Abraham's face. In this way Crumb elevates the book of Genesis and complements the text.
After reading this, one hopes that Crumb will continue on this path, and illustrate other books of the Bible.
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