Sunday, October 25, 2009

Illustrating Genesis: R. Crumb's New Graphic Version

Today I purchased R. Crumb's new The Book of Genesis: Illustrated. Many bibliobloggers have been discussing the release of this book lately, showing a pre-released page or two. My local independent bookstore, Book Culture, has had this featured on their shelves for weeks now, even though it is much before its official release date of October 28. Kudos to Book Culture for being able to get this weeks before it is available elsewhere.

I have merely glanced at it so far, so my comments are necessarily cursory. The illustrations are very earthy--even those of angels and God (although God appears a bit luminescent). It freely depicts what the Bible describes (e.g., Adam "knowing" Eve, or any other sex scene in Genesis with some nudity--such as bare breasts or butts, and, when not explicitly nude, nipple outlines show through clothing). I was interested in looking at Genesis 22, the binding of Isaac, which illustrates the internal turmoil of Abraham through his facial expressions, particularly his eyes, which have both a searingly hard and troubled look, and the drawing of sweat. If you turn to Jacob wrestling with the man/angel/god, that figure looks just as human as Jacob. One recurrent element I find interesting is the use of jewelry. Women are often depicted with nose rings, men with earrings, and there are necklaces galore. Crumb is very interested in hairstyles and beardstyles. Styles of jewelry and hair clearly indicate social elements of gender and class. It shows an attention to middle-eastern styles of dress and detail.

It looks to be an enjoyable rendition of Genesis. It is the only copy of either a complete or portion of the Bible that comes with a warning: "Adult supervision recommended for minors." I think this should be the case for the Bible when not illustrated! Not necessarily for the sexual encounters described, however epigrammatically, but the violence involved.

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