Thursday, July 15, 2010

Book Recommendation

I mean every word of this. One of the most fascinating books I’ve seen in a long, long time is—believe it or not—titled The Book of Genesis Illustrated. It is a hardbound comic book. The words are from Genesis. The drawings are by Robert Crumb who is, perhaps, better known as R. Crumb, a comic book illustrator of the first rank. I don’t know quite how to put this. Perhaps the best way is to say that the book must be experienced. I guarantee that the reading of this text in this format is a genuinely new and indeed startling experience. The text Crumb uses is Robert Alter’s translation, The Five Books of Moses, although, as Crumb states in his introduction, he also used phrasing from other translations, including the King James Bible. The pages are unnumbered; a good guess is that there are about 200 pages or so plus a slender commentary. Subdivision is by chapters, but there is no table of contents. The publisher is W.W. Norton & Company, October 2009. It is available on Amazon for $16.47 last I looked. I found it amazing. I still do. This work, I think, teaches a number of different lessons; let me note two. One is the manner in which comic books work and what makes them a genuinely new medium of communication. The Japanese have realized and exploited this fascinating interaction. We've invented the comic book but have not let it fully develop on this side of the Pacific. To be sure, the Japanese Manga predates comics; thus the Japanese produced a new synthesis. The other lesson, at least for me, is to show how compressed a narrative Genesis really is but, if imaginatively received, how effective it is in concentrating a vast essence into a small space, contracting and expanding time, developing character where it is in dicated, and never losing its thematic vision.


  1. I've heard very good things about it from other sources; I suppose I'll have to pick it up somewhere.

  2. I'll second Arsen's recommendation. Something in Crumb's illustrations really brought the emotional content of the book to life.

    One of the other interesting things I found about it was when Crumb put a face with each name in some of those long, long Genesis lists of people. There was something about it that made me reflect a bit more on how each of those persons had their place within this whole story.

    I hope he takes on Exodus next!