The Book of Genesis Illustrated
by Robert Crumb (W.W. Norton & Co., 2009)

Robert Crumb set out to illustrate the entire text of the entire Book of Genesis. After five years of painstaking labor, he achieved exactly that: a re-interpretation of the complete Book of Genesis, word-for-word and fully drawn.

Whatever you think of Crumb and whatever you think of his intentions, this version of Genesis is both accurate and fantastic. From the creation of the world to the life and death of Joseph, an entire world comes to life in the blunt, cross-hatched, black-and-white art of the underground cartoonist whose satirical sketches defined an entire counterculture. His careful research yields detailed artwork that makes you feel the heat of the desert and the sweat of people toiling in the fields and building temples.

God is a truly awesome, very real presence. There is such a prodigious amount of detail that it's almost mind-boggling, but way the art and the layout humanize the characters and their world is sheer genius. The stories come alive in a completely new way. The Book of Genesis may well indeed be Crumb's best creation yet.

Of course the stories in Genesis are not exactly cheerful. It's about the beginnings of civilization, every aspect of which is depicted fully. The Bronze Age was a dog-eat-dog period marked by war, greed, ruthlessness and hatred. There is a great deal of nudity, sex and violence, and lots and lots of God's wrath. There is also love, honor and beauty.

Overall, Crumb's interpretation is thoughtful, well-researched and fascinating. Well worth the read.

review by
Mary Harvey

27 August 2016

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