The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb

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Overview

Nominated for three 2010 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards: From Creation to the death of Joseph, here are all 50 chapters of the Book of Genesis, revealingly illustrated as never before.
Envisioning the first book of the bible like no one before him, R. Crumb, the legendary illustrator, reveals here the story of Genesis in a profoundly honest and deeply moving way. Originally thinking that we would do a take off of Adam and Eve, Crumb became so fascinated by the Bible’s ...

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Overview

Nominated for three 2010 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards: From Creation to the death of Joseph, here are all 50 chapters of the Book of Genesis, revealingly illustrated as never before.
Envisioning the first book of the bible like no one before him, R. Crumb, the legendary illustrator, reveals here the story of Genesis in a profoundly honest and deeply moving way. Originally thinking that we would do a take off of Adam and Eve, Crumb became so fascinated by the Bible’s language, “a text so great and so strange that it lends itself readily to graphic depictions,” that he decided instead to do a literal interpretation using the text word for word in a version primarily assembled from the translations of Robert Alter and the King James bible.
Now, readers of every persuasion—Crumb fans, comic book lovers, and believers—can gain astonishing new insights from these harrowing, tragic, and even juicy stories. Crumb’s Book of Genesis reintroduces us to the bountiful tree lined garden of Adam and Eve, the massive ark of Noah with beasts of every kind, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed by brimstone and fire that rained from the heavens, and the Egypt of the Pharaoh, where Joseph’s embalmed body is carried in a coffin, in a scene as elegiac as any in Genesis. Using clues from the text and peeling away the theological and scholarly interpretation that have often obscured the Bible’s most dramatic stories, Crumb fleshes out a parade of Biblical originals: from the serpent in Eden, the humanoid reptile appearing like an alien out of a science fiction movie, to Jacob, a “kind’ve depressed guy who doesn’t strike you as physically courageous,” and his bother, Esau, “a rough and kick ass guy,” to Abraham’s wife Sarah, more fetching than most woman at 90, to God himself, “a standard Charlton Heston-like figure with long white hair and a flowing beard.”
As Crumb writes in his introduction, “the stories of these people, the Hebrews, were something more than just stories. They were the foundation, the source, in writing of religious and political power, handed down by God himself.” Crumb’s Book of Genesis, the culmination of 5 years of painstaking work, is a tapestry of masterly detail and storytelling which celebrates the astonishing diversity of the one of our greatest artistic geniuses.
Nominated for three 2010 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards: Best Adaptation from Another Work, Best Graphic Album, Best Writer/Artist.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Almost everything about R. Crumb is surprising, but nothing has been more astonishing than the subject of his graphic novel. Only the most astute Crumb watcher could have anticipated that the author of The Big Yum Yum Book and Keep on Truckin' would turn to the Old Testament for inspiration. The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb is, however, no novelty; during this four-year project, this veteran subversive artist rooted himself in the primal tensions and jostling of the biblical text. Crumb's Genesis slaps away theological discussions and creationist feuds to tackle the archetypal stories at its core. Strangely enough, this could be his major work.
Booklist
“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.”
Newsweek
“Crumb achieves a miracle all his own: he makes one of the world's oldest stories new again.”
David Colton - USA Today
“[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.”
Graphic Novel Reporter
“From the Creation to the death of Joseph, here is the Book of Genesis, revealingly illustrated as never before. This eagerly awaited graphic work retells the first book of the Bible in a profoundly honest way....The result, four years in the making, is a tapestry of extraordinary detail, the finest work of Crumb’s legendary career.”
Paul Buhle - The Jewish Daily Forward
“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.”
Susan Jane Gilman - Morning Edition
“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.”
David Hajdu
The prospect of Crumb's doing the Bible might seem at first a stunt, an all-too-obvious mash-up of the most sacred and the most profane…Crumb's book is serious and, for Crumb, restrained. He resists the temptation to go all-out Crumb on us and exaggerate the sordidness, the primitivism and the outright strangeness (by contemporary standards) of parts of the text…Crumb luxuriates in the carnality of Genesis without playing it for gratuitous shock or comic effect.
—The New York Times
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.)\
Library Journal
This is the Bible that distressed 19th-century English philanthropist and man of letters Thomas Bowdler: not stories for sweet-faced kiddies, but sex and blood. Every verse in Genesis is here, unabridged, and treated—as Crumb puts it—to a straight illustration job. They're a conniving and licentious crew, these folk, and the Almighty had His hands full in weeding out the best of the lot as Future Fathers of the Covenant. It's all about seed and sons, and while the men squabble over flocks and wives and land, the women squabble over progeny and baby-daddies. Crumb folded in a good bit of domestic life as well as battles and blessings, working from the King James Version, Robert Alters's recent translation of the Five Books of Moses, museum collections in England and Europe, and swords-and-sandals epics. Zondervan's manga Genesis, pitched to children, is heavily expurgated, but Crumb's is the real deal and deserves its "adult supervision recommended for minors" label. VERDICT We could not expect less from the patriarch of underground comix—themselves notorious for sex and violence and deals gone sour. Indeed, Crumb's muscular, detailed black-and-white seems ideally suited to Old Testament scuffles and seaminess. Recommended for adult collections, especially in academic libraries.—M.C.\
Kirkus Reviews
The Book of Genesis as imagined by a veteran voice of underground comics. R. Crumb's pass at the opening chapters of the Bible isn't nearly the act of heresy the comic artist's reputation might suggest. In fact, the creator of Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural is fastidiously respectful. Crumb took pains to preserve every word of Genesis-drawing from numerous source texts, but mainly Robert Alter's translation, The Five Books of Moses (2004)-and he clearly did his homework on the clothing, shelter and landscapes that surrounded Noah, Abraham and Isaac. This dedication to faithful representation makes the book, as Crumb writes in his introduction, a "straight illustration job, with no intention to ridicule or make visual jokes." But his efforts are in their own way irreverent, and Crumb feels no particular need to deify even the most divine characters. God Himself is not much taller than Adam and Eve, and instead of omnisciently imparting orders and judgment He stands beside them in Eden, speaking to them directly. Jacob wrestles not with an angel, as is so often depicted in paintings, but with a man who looks not much different from himself. The women are uniformly Crumbian, voluptuous Earth goddesses who are both sexualized and strong-willed. (The endnotes offer a close study of the kinds of power women wielded in Genesis.) The downside of fitting all the text in is that many pages are packed tight with small panels, and too rarely-as with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah-does Crumb expand his lens and treat signature events dramatically. Even the Flood is fairly restrained, though the exodus of the animals from the Ark is beautifully detailed. The author's respect for Genesis isadmirable, but it may leave readers wishing he had taken a few more chances with his interpretation, as when he draws the serpent in the Garden of Eden as a provocative half-man/half-lizard. On the whole, though, the book is largely a tribute to Crumb's immense talents as a draftsman and stubborn adherence to the script. An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories. Author events in New York, Richmond, Va., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Austin\
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393061024
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/19/2009
  • Edition description: Not appropriate for children
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 82,583
  • Product dimensions: 8.88 (w) x 11.18 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

Born in Philadelphia, R. Crumb is the author of numerous comic works and one of the pioneers of underground comics. His books include Kafka, The Complete Crumb Comics (17 volumes), The R. Crumb Sketchbook (10 volumes), R. Crumb Draws the Blues, The Book of Mr. Natural, The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb, and many more. He lives in the south of France with his wife, the artist Aline Kominsky-Crumb.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 39 )
Rating Distribution

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(18)

4 Star

(5)

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(7)

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1 Star

(4)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 40 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 5, 2009

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    I Also Recommend:

    From an R. Crumb fan

    I came to R. Crumb later in life as I was too young to see Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural (my favorite). I saw a documentary on his life and became interested in his unique story.

    "The Book of Genesis Illustrated" is a great example of his work. The meticulous effort that went in to create it is impressive in its scope and attention to detail. I have never had any interest in the Bible whatsoever, but have come to understand why the lessons in this book have become such powerful influences on world culture and our common sense of morality.

    The emotion Crumb is able to convey through his illustrations turns the book of Genesis into both a heartfelt and dynamic story. The analysis by biblical scholars provided as footnotes are also helpful in clarifying some of the often mysterious aspects of the text.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 12, 2009

    An engaging way to read the first book of the bible

    I've been surprised by how meaningful and down to earth R. Crumb has made the Book of Genesis.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2010

    The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb

    In a way Crumb has been doing biblical stories all along and that he has now completed the book of Genesis it all seems to come together. The confused, conflicted and frequently brutal characters of the bible go perfectly with Crumb's style. More than any reverent illustrator, Crumb has brought some human reality to the characters of Genesis although Crumb is sometimes baffled by the way they act and the strange inconsistencies of the stories. His footnotes will help you along with understanding the historical origins these stories came from. Here's to hoping that he can somehow get to more books.

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  • Posted May 5, 2010

    A Bible for Atheists!

    As a lifelong atheist (74 years old) I can't help but applaud Crumb's take on Genesis. It's brillaint and actually fun to read. It accuately captures the word and the total sillyness of this influencial and destructive tome Crumb's illustrations combine with the actual old testements' words to place this work in the correct genre it justly deserves-the comics! Highly recommended for a fun read. Not to be taken seriously!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2010

    Illustrated, comic-book style, Genesis

    The drawings, the visual comic-book narrative, are excellent, as one would expect from a masrter such as Crumb. The choice to use the whole text of Genesis, without editing, makes this version more valuable than just on account of the powerful and magnificent drawings. The commentary at the end is, however, amateurish and worthless, finding publication and massive circulation only because it piggy-back rides on the drawn version of Genesis. Crumb is not only not a biblical scholar, he does not even have the research know-how required for a sophomoric start at it. The result is an anachronistic, agenda-driven text. Fortunately, it is all at the end and can be ignored.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2010

    An Incredible Achievement

    Anyone who has any interest in the Old Testament Bible should own this work. R. Crumb, his reputation notwithstanding, has made the Book of Genesis come to life in a way I would not have thought possible. Almost word-for-word, largely based on the King James version, nothing left out, nothing added. His artistic license is held in firm check--this is not a parody or an insult to your beliefs, folks. If anything, it shows the good with the bad, the exciting with the mundane, exactly as written. The overall artwork is stunning, and every person from Adam and Eve to Joseph and his brothers are presented as unique, real, believable individuals. God appears as the Old Testament, "Charlton Heston" portrayal most of us grew up with. I expect there will be people who will be very uncomfortable with this portrayal, but there will be little or no basis for criticism. Scenes involving violence and sex are featured in a matter-of-fact manner. Where there are contradictions, Crumb has presented a very useful appendix to explain them (and the sources for his interpretation), as well as frequent (but not disruptive)asides as to where the origin of a name or term may have likely originated. In short, a magnificent, respectful, unbiased, and scholarly work by an alleged non-believer. A very worthwhile investment. I'm hoping that he will continue with the project as long as possible.

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  • Posted March 12, 2010

    Book of Genesis

    This book is very good. The pictures are very good. One word of caution is that some of the pictures would not be suitable for young children due tot he graphic nature of some of the drawings. Overall a different tool to explain Genesis to children compared to reading straight from the bible.

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  • Posted January 23, 2010

    How to get them to actually read Genesis

    I bought this book as a collectors item, (1st printing, hardcover, R Crumb! yes!). However when I received it I found myself drawn by the illustrations into the actual text. Crumbs, anabashedly, realistic depictions of events make the text much more compelling than the sanitized illustrations that I remember from Sunday School in my youth.
    A good addition to anyone's permanent library.

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  • Posted January 16, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Sunday School Seems Brighter....

    While the subject matter is debatable mythology, The artwork brings a different perspective to the minds eye. This was my Xmas gift to friends and family last year. Most remember R Crumb from the Zap Comix & Mr. Natural Hippy era. Although the art work is the same, all dialog is word for word the King James dogma. The church y folks were taken aback expecting a prank, until they read passages. Quiet disorientation soon afterwards. I can imagine those that read Zap Comix expecting some S.Clay Wilson style chapters. Sunday school will never be the same.

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  • Posted January 15, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    An Artist's Challenge

    Shaking us out of conventional thinking is one of the important things an artist can do. R. Crumb has done just that with his illustrations for the Book of Genesis. He has applied his well-known style and mannerisms to sacred text, but only after a probing personal investigation into its meaning. This apostle of the '60s approaches Genesis with utter seriousness, and his illustrations offer a remarkable commentary. One of the unexpected benefits of Crumb's approach comes with the genealogies. Each person named in these lists receives an individual portrait, reminding us that every individual is significant, even those of whom we know no more than their names. Crumb's work is challenging and brave, and it will surely spark discussion.

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  • Posted January 3, 2010

    A must for biblical scholars or underground comix fans

    The headline says it all. There has never before been a book which brings these two elements together. With Robert Alter's superlative translation and Crumb's honest illustration this is a wonderful addition to almost any library.

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  • Posted December 27, 2009

    A masterpiece of the cartoonist's art

    R Crumb illustrates The Book of Genesis, following the excellent Alter translation (with a few understandable exceptions that he explains in his introduction and notes.) I would say "faithfully following," except that Crumb makes it clear that he is treating Genesis with the reverence that it is owed as a piece of world literature rather than as the revealed word of God. His style -- detailed, messy, human -- meshes wonderfully with the text. The people look as if they could have been living in the harsh world of ancient times -- or in the Garden of Eden, as appropriate -- rather than as if they were snatched from a shopping mall and dressed in funny outfits. The women in particular are substantial, while appropriately sensual. And Crumb learned how to evoke the world of Biblical times by showing his first drafts to people educated in the subject and amending. All in all an immense labor, and a wonderful book.

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  • Posted December 27, 2009

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    Somewhat dismayed

    I found the concept interesting, to say the least. However, I find the execution of the project to be racist and anti-Semitic. The characters are drawn with all the stereotypical racism portrayed for centuries by the most vile anti-Semites. Yet the reason for my dismay is that a publisher like Norton would market this kind of product. Ugh!

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 16, 2009

    R. Crumb should do this for the whole Bible!

    R. Crumb should do this for the whole Bible. If he did maybe there would be a revitalized movement to understand and read the Bible. His drawings and attention to detail are amazing. But then what else would you expect for R. Crumb?

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    Posted January 25, 2010

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