Friday, March 26, 2010

Crumb’s Genesis, Part 1

You have to wonder, who is the target audience for R. Crumb’s The Book of Genesis Illustrated?

His fans, I think, and maybe a few others. While marketing suggests it expected a wider audience, as well an onslaught from offended Bible true believers, I’m not sure either occurred.

In his introduction, Crumb raises his shield, noting, “I approached this as a straight illustration job. … That said, I know you can’t please everybody.” Well, it wasn’t truly a “straight illustration job,” as we have to assume Crumb came up with idea himself, or certainly agreed to it. I doubt anyone forces him to take on any work he doesn’t want.

It does seem like a great, Hollywood-style high-concept moment, though, doesn’t it? “I know,” says some publicist, “let’s get that bad-boy Robert Crumb to illustrate the Bible! That’ll shock people! And we’ll sell ’em by the truckload.”

Except I’m dubious as to how shocking any of this could be to those already familiar with the tent. Crumb’s illustrations — depicting Creation and up through the funeral procession of Joseph, at the age of 110 — show the Old Testament populace as angry, embittered, in despair, laughing, lusting, sweating, dancing, wild-eyed … just as it says in the book itself.

For folk who are shocked, it can only mean they’re really not that knowledgeable with the source material. As it warns on the cover of Genesis Illustrated, “Nothing left out!” “All 50 chapters!” and “Adult supervision recommended for minors.”

It’s powerful stuff, Crumb himself admits.

More to come on this.

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