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A Word on Crumb’s Illustrated Genesis

December 1, 2009

An apology is in order. Lost amid my nonstop complaints about religion and my belief that it is a force for ill is my reverence for the Bible. Not for its content, which sucks rhino balls, but for its value as an enduring artifact of where we came from. The Bible is unique among ancient Middle Eastern texts in its unbroken history of importance over the millenia of its existence. When I get caught up in its invocation as a legitimate refutation of evolution or stem cell research, I fail to acknowledge its enormous contribution to so many societies.

I am also guilty of losing sight of its singular beauty. While I don’t for a second think of the Bible as a valuable guide to life, I don’t for a second deny its high degree of anthropological significance.
Robert Crumb’s Book of Genesis Illustrated drives this point home on every page. While I would not have used the same translations he works from (Robert Alter’s 2004 Five Books of Moses, supplemented with The King James Version), I admire each translation in its own right, and Crumb integrates them beautifully.

I wish I knew more about Crumb’s oeuvre, because if I did, I would be more confident in declaring this book his masterpiece. In the five years he devoted to The Book of Genesis Illustrated, Crumb devised a series of images that convey the smeary gravitas of the Good Book. His effort is itself an unmistakable element of the work’s beauty.

I began reading tonight, and twenty-one chapters in, I have been met by grotesque and reverent illustrations befitting the invaluable artifact Crumb illustrates. It is a welcome addition to my collection of Bibles, and it sheds some new light on a book that’s been analyzed to death and back too many times to count.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Korbie permalink
    December 1, 2009 12:42 am

    Damn, he spent five years on this? Is he planning on continuing? He’ll be dead before he finishes if it is so. He needs to spontaneously generate some manservants to draw for him.

    • Barry permalink*
      December 1, 2009 9:26 am

      He is not going to continue. Also, he’s an unbeliever.

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