The Illustrated Book of Genesis
by R. Crumb
It’s interesting when someone famous for scandal does something not scandalous. The Book of Genesis is just such a work. There’s some talk here and there about the book being scandalous, but I found this bishop’s blog that said it best:
So, who are the people likely to take offense at this book? I guess it will be the people who (a) haven’t read it or (b) take offense at anything that involves bodies, sex, God or cultural intelligence. (link)
But America’s filled with people who haven’t actually read the Bible and take offense at anything that involves bodies or sex, at least we pretend to. It’s part of our Victorian prudish heritage. So some thoughts about Crumb’s book:
- I like the way Crumb draws the people — normal. They have a variety of body shapes (though the women tend to be pretty close to the kinds of women Crumb tends to draw) and look like people who live in the Middle East today. The only part that feels a little cartoonish is God himself, who sports an enormous white beard and thus looks like many people think He does.
- Like most people raised Catholic, I didn’t actually read the Bible until college, when I read selected sections of the Old Testament for one class, and much of the gospels for another. While I’d heard about it, I hadn’t actually read the story about Lot’s daughters before. First he offers them to an Sodomite mob in lieu of the three strangers he’s sheltering, then later they get him drunk so they can have sex with him. Yikes.
R. Crumb’s history as an agitating and controversial comic artist primes the reader for a frenzy of awful images, but what we get are instead normal ones, devoid of sensationalism. As such, they work very well to convey what the bishop I linked to above calls the ‘human’ reality of the stories. I think this helps make the book more relatable, at times. That is, unless you get offended by boobies.