Visu­al Arts

The Book of Genesis

Robert Crumb; Robert Alter, trans.
  • Review
By – September 16, 2011

Final­ly! An adult ver­sion of one of the world’s most wide­spread and debat­ed books gets inked. Esteemed artist and illus­tra­tor Robert Crumb greets this project with open arms; a graph­i­cal adap­ta­tion of all 50 chap­ters of Gen­e­sis. Crumb is known for his dis­tinc­tive draw­ing style, crit­i­cal and satir­i­cal views of main­stream Amer­i­ca, and involve­ment in the under­ground com­ic scene, often depict­ing con­tent for­bid­den in con­ven­tion­al pub­li­ca­tions. Some feel Crumb is a won­der­ful­ly unlike­ly can­di­date to breathe new life into the found­ing nar­ra­tive of priv­i­lege and author­i­ty in the Judeo-Chris­t­ian world. To his defense, Crumb’s goals were not to be comedic or iron­ic but rather to inter­pret this sacred text com­plete­ly through his own style of illus­tra­tion. As he states in the intro­duc­tion, there was no mon­key­ing around with the text.” 

Crumb has done a fan­tas­tic job of deliv­er­ing all 50 chap­ters with­out devi­a­tion or abom­i­na­tion. To main­tain authen­tic­i­ty, the entire book is drawn with ink and remains in black and white. Crumb refrains from delv­ing into the typ­i­cal grotesque and porno­graph­ic illus­tra­tions for which he is known, a chal­lenge which he met with grace — despite his dar­ing and explic­it past. There is indeed some fine art­work here; G‑d’s end­less white beard and flow­ing mane depict a sense of enlight­en­ment and might­i­ness, his re-con­struc­tion of Noah and his arc is mas­ter­ful, and Abram’s haunt­ed sleep when the Lord tells him his seed will be scat­tered for 400 years is pow­er­ful­ly deliv­ered with per­plex­ing dread. 

Ref­er­ence the back of the book for Crumb’s per­son­al com­ments and obser­va­tions on each chapter.

Elliot Fox received a BA from Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty in Wash­ing­ton, DC. He is the for­mer Direc­tor of Mar­ket­ing & Pro­mo­tions at JDub Records.

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