Robert Crumb's Book of Genesis: All 50 Chapters by Robert Crumb

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Robert Crumb's Book of Genesis: All 50 Chapters by Robert Crumb

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Buy Robert Crumb's Book of Genesis: All 50 Chapters by Robert Crumb at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Graphic Novels
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A honest and compelling pictorial version of the old text. This deserves to be looked at by all readers of the Bible, and all graphic novel fans.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: October 2009
Publisher: Jonathan Cape Ltd
ISBN: 978-0224078092

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In the beginning was the picture. Just think of all the countless religious images, both inside and outside religious establishments, designed to convey the message to those who could not read. Art and religion have always been linked, which is probably one of the main reasons I stayed an atheist - I hated art at school, and drawing a man on a donkey, something way beyond my skills, was not a task I appreciated, hence my dislike of both subjects.

There is one very slight way in which I say Robert Crumb cannot draw, in that many of his characters look alike. The dramatis personae on the back of this edition prove my point - Eve and Sarah look nearly identical, facially. A lot of the ladies in this Genesis are very similar to the stock Crumb type, and when you consider what I've seen them getting up to in older volumes it might make you think this artist is not completely fit for his task. Let me assure you he is.

This, to get it straight, is Genesis, based on the King James version, and on Robert Alter's translation of the Pentateuch. Why a local High Street bookstore has this down in the humour section I just don't know. Crumb has, apparently, hardly changed a word.

Which means both good points and bad. Anyone else would surely have dropped chapter 36 as meaningless and inconsequential. The text as it stands is also very, very repetitive. Witness God's covenant regarding the rainbow to Noah - He is incredibly tautologous. The finding and fetching of Rebekah is told three times, more or less.

But the reader, such as me, who only knows these stories from bad musicals and distant memories, is alerted to just what a billion people and more hold dear. The world was indubitably changed by this script, whenever it was written, in whatever order, and by how many people in different places. A postscript offers us spins on some of the contents that make sense, and further educate us.

It's imperative I say what this book is not. It is not a cartoon comic strip in the sense of a basis of an animation. The creation, and Sodom and Gomorrah's brimstone and fire, both show this is in separate stills, meaning this is illustrated, and not storyboarded. And it's illustrated superbly - I could only want for more of Crumb's rich, black lines, and flawless shading, offering a lovely sense of detail in the smallest of drawing sizes.

Thus the characters come out finely, the design and layout (possibly a bit busy for the newcomer to the medium of sequential art) is good, and the artistic decisions made left, right and centre, seem spot on. Crumb suggests he has tried to put as little interpretation as possible into the text, bar a few huge details, such as the Edenic serpent. This is true - though I did laugh at the look on Abraham's face when he was told about circumcision!

So this rests as an honest, sincere, proper artistic rendering of Genesis. It was some latent curiosity, and not just Crumb's name, that made me demand this from my own book reviewing gods, and his artistry and the timeless, ageless sense he imbues his pictures with, that made me read to the finish.

I must thank the publishers for sending me a review copy.

Don't laugh at this link, but for further religious aspects discussed in graphic novel form, I would hold up Superman: Redemption by Kurt Busiek as a fine example. We also have our category of spirituality and religion to browse.

Buy Robert Crumb's Book of Genesis: All 50 Chapters by Robert Crumb at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Robert Crumb's Book of Genesis: All 50 Chapters by Robert Crumb at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Robert Crumb's Book of Genesis: All 50 Chapters by Robert Crumb at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Robert Crumb's Book of Genesis: All 50 Chapters by Robert Crumb at Amazon.com.

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