Crumb's Genesis

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Crumb's Genesis

Postby Gamer » Tue Dec 03, 2013 12:34 am

As some of you know I'm not a "religious" fellow

But I had the luck to stumble on Crumb's Genesis. So, R. Crumb, (you know the one) actually illustrated the entire book of genesis frame by frame, no irony, no visual gags, just an honest, literal interpretation using the exact text.

The effect was worth mentioning. I've read Genesis a lot, or at least parts of it, my eyes always glaze over. I spend a decent amount of time in synagogue for family reasons and there's not always much to do besides follow along

Something about Crumb's work told the story in a whole new way. Again, the text is verbatim, and the images are NOT satirical or funny or cunning. So WHY did it have such an effect?

First let me describe this "effect," and then we'll examine the why.

First, it was entertaining. I found this tired old fable (one that often seems just silly and weird) to be ridiculously entertaining, gripping and subtle. Something in the narrative and the characters struck a deep chord. Suddenly, prophets seem flawed and conflicted in the most delicious, literary way.

Plot turns were layered and begged for analysis. One begins to mull over why people did certain things and what it meant. The more you peel the onion, the less clichéd it feels. I fuckin' loved it. I came away feeling that Genesis is actually a brilliant tale that speaks to the very core of what the human animal longs to know about. It confirms, explains, entreats, and provides answers to questions that the heart might naturally long for; it issues a challenge, a warning, and a kind of solace.

So, to primitive peoples living in a mysterious, brutish world, it provided everything they could ever want. Even today, it works, it's affecting – though I don't see it as the word of God but the word of men, developed and sharpened over many years, for maximum effect, to be used for many things, control, solace, community glue, etc.

WHY was Crumb's depiction so powerful for me?

It's got to be the artwork. He approaches each scene innocently, honestly, drawings are simple, but betray a deep intelligence, a rawness. B/c Crumb is an artist and not afraid or pandering, his work doesn't coddle, handhold, sanitize, protect, push an agenda, simplify, etc.

It's the unfiltered imagery from a brilliant, perceptive artist trying to complement the text, almost as if he's trying to collaborate with the writers of old, trying to UNLOCK the meaning they were going for. That's why Crumb's genesis, for me, transcends any text-only reading.

Crumb includes a few notes here and there, etymologies and interesting interp from the sages, to clarify or elucidate for the intelligent layman reader. But overall he keeps it simple. His treatment helped me realize that the sages, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, were not perfect, they made mistakes and did bad things, they were very human. It's all in the text but I missed it until I saw it in the frames.

Crumb has a style that is ornate and simple, tensile is the word that comes to mind. His characters are expressive, beautiful, human, flawed, strong and weak, pathetic and glorious. The story, I see now, lends itself, to extreme exegesis, whereby we learn more about ourselves.

So why not head to your local libes, cook up a pot of onions, get a box of malted milk balls, and settle in for a night of bible comix with Crumb, the mind behind Fritz the cat. And when you do, tell 'em Gamer sent ya. See you in Sodom, folks.
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