The book of Genesis

by R. Crumb

Hardcover, 2009




New York : W.W. Norton, c2009.


An illustrated adaptation of the entire book of Genesis, providing the biblical accounts of the Creation, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and the ark, the Tower of Babel, and other people and events.

Media reviews

Like Genesis itself, this book is a mix of the sacred and the profane. Not everyone will find that to their liking. However, I sincerely believe it’s worth the effort to read the book, at least once.
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For all its narrative potency and raw beauty, Crumb’s “Book of Genesis” is missing something that just does not interest its illustrator: a sense of the sacred.
It's a cartoonist's equivalent of the Sistine Chapel, and it's awesome. Crumb has done a real artist's turn here — he's challenged himself and defied all expectation.
Genesis doesn't need an R. Crumb to provide perversity and failure. It's got enough all by itself. This is one reason that Crumb could play it straight with his art, no cloacal Snoid comedy, no gratuitous sex. Yes, there is sex -- men and women are shown discreetly coupling. But no irony, no joking
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around here. Just one pen-and-ink panel after another until Joseph -- he of the coat of many colors -- dies and the book ends. How strange it all is, how ordinary. How biblical, how Crumb.
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The power of "The Book of Genesis Illustrated" resides in Crumb's decision to play it straight, to frame this ancient creation myth on its own enduring terms.

User reviews

LibraryThing member copyedit52
No doubt faithful to Genesis, but all that begatting--basically a recitation of names (for which Crumb supplies made-up, mainly bearded faces)--is no more interesting in comic form than in print. Not Crumb's fault, except for taking on this admittedly prodigious project. And given who he is and
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what he's done previously, you can't fault the reader for hoping Flaky Foont or Mr. Natural will appear in the next panel, to at least break up the unrelenting succession of flowing white-bearded patriarchs and their capricious god.
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LibraryThing member alfredd

One of the biggest mistakes we Christians make in understanding the bible is that we tend to skip from one comfortable passage to the next, avoiding the hard passages.

R. Crumb encourages readers to think about ALL the passages, not just the ones we learned
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in Sunday School. This is very revealing.

For example: the story of Noah. We tend to focus on the cute side of this story about the animals going two-by-two into the ark. But there is much more to this archetypal story than that. R. Crumb doesn't shy away from portraying the whole story.
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LibraryThing member njteacher70
As others have mentioned, this is a fairly straight and faithful re-telling of the book of Genesis using a meld of the Robert Alter translation and the King James Version. I say "fairly straight," because the stories themselves are sparse in details, so the depctions of the look of the characters
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and of their reactions to events--as in facial expressions, beads of sweat, body language--are left to Crumb. Furthermore, in at least two panels, Crumb shows his hand more overtly by adding question marks enclosed in a thought balloon to express that character's befuddlement at the turn of events. These are not complaints, but the reader should be reminded that ultimately this work is an interpretation of the book of Genesis, not a mere literal re-telling.

Given that, this is a masterful, lavishly executed work that has the effect of making the text both more interesting and accessible. As I teach parts of the Hebrew Bible each year for an honors elective class and see how my students struggle with the text, this aspect of the book is invaluable to me. Furthermore, the lists of lineage are rendered much more palatable with Crumb's illustrations. The book also lends itself well to browsing, re-reading, and skipping about from story-to-story when the urge strikes.

My chief quibble with the work is that some of Crumb's commentary on the stories, at the back of his book, appears to be drawn from dated source material. Specifically, most scholars no longer believe in a golden age of matriarchal socieities that date to Neolithic times, as Crumb posits. Whlie women may have had more rights and been afforded greater respect in earlier, less patriarchal societies than that of the world of Genesis, there is simply no evidence for peaceful, idyllic matriarchies where a female fertility goddess was privileged above all others.
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LibraryThing member shawjonathan
On the dust-jacket flap we're told that Crumb originally intended to do a 'take-off of Adam and Eve', but found himself so fascinated by the thing itself that the project transformed into this – a comic version of the whole book of Genesis, 'NOTHING LEFT OUT!' I was still expecting that somehow
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this would be a crude and raunchy telling, a version for the irreligious.

Nup! It's a straight graphic-novelisation. Admittedly, Crumb doesn't shy away from the text's abundant sex, violence and general skulduggery, but he doesn't linger on it or portray it in lascivious detail. In fact, he has a couple of pages of lucid notes up the back proposing explanations for some of the more puzzlingly lurid behaviour of Abraham and Isaac, some of them drawing on feminist biblical scholarship (yes, that's right, the creator of Fritz the Cat reads and refers his readers to feminist biblical scholarship).

Some religious people might find the book a bit confronting, but if they were honest they would probably admit to finding it confronting even without Crumb's contribution.
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LibraryThing member craigim
This takes 'illuminated manuscript' to a whole other level. Monks of old would spend a lifetime carefully copying just the text, word for word, with frilly, intricate capital letters at the start of each chapter, sometimes depicting a single iconic scene. Crumb took five years and not only hand
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lettered the text of Genesis, but illustrated each verse in his own distinctive, detailed style. As a non-Christian, he approached the task not from a reverent point of view but as a straightforward illustration job. He studied three different translations and consulted biblical scholarship and archaeology to be sure that he understood the meaning behind the various words and that he got the architecture and clothing as close to historically accurate as possible. The result is an honest and beautiful illustration of the text. Nothing extra is added, and nothing is left out (when the text says that Lot's daughters get him drunk and have sex with him, he draws Lot's daughters getting him drunk and having sex with him). I wish he could have made it through the entire Pentateuch, or even just Revelations, but I can see not wanting to devote another 5 to 20 years to such a project, and of course the whole bible would take more than a lifetime at this level of detail, and I've heard him say in interviews that he has no intention of doing so.
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LibraryThing member galacticus
Crumb provides a graphic rendition of Genesis that is faithful to the text. I commend Crumb for being graphic and not vulgar. I recommend this book to anyone who is willing to take a long hard look in the "mirror" that is Genesis.
LibraryThing member StephenBarkley
I couldn't resist ordering this once I read the cover:

The first book
of the bible

I taught through Genesis a few years ago, and realized just what "nothing left out" would mean!

I was pleasantly surprised by how faithful Crumb was to the text. He took a
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scholarly translation (Robert Alter's The Five Books of Moses), and worked diligently to illustrate it. This isn't some gratuitous parody or vain satire. This is God's word . . . with pictures.

Much of the criticism about Crumb's work centres on his depiction of God as a shiny old man with a monstrous beard. I tend to agree—God's not an elderly man with eccentric facial hair. That said, what image should an illustrator use for a person who walked with Adam in the cool of the evening and who appeared to his chosen people? He clearly showed up in some form they could comprehend!

If you're easily offended, just ignore this book. If you're curious and want to better visualize the Genesis narratives, give it a try.
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LibraryThing member MaowangVater
This is a book that gives new connotations to the concepts of Classics Illustrated and Illuminated Manuscripts. On the dust jacket illustration Crumb shows Adam and Eve getting shown out of Eden by a stern looking Ancient of Days God. Surrounding this scene are advertising banners proclaiming,
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“Adult Supervision Recommended For Minors,” ‘All 50 Chapters,” and “The First Book of the Bible Graphically Depicted! Nothing Left Out!” Famous for his underground comics, Crumb says that he approached this as strictly an illustration job, and in his introduction he makes it a point to say that he added no words of his own to the text. What he has added is his own thickly embodied human figures, which he has superbly portrayed with individual faces. He is a master of revealing the emotions in those faces. As promised he has left nothing out, including the “begots” and a fair number of scenes of the begetting, hence, the caution for adult supervision on the cover. There are no fig leaves on Adam or Eve before they take a bite of the fruit, or on any of the scenes of violence in the rest of the book. The illustrations give the impression of a dark and gritty realism surrounding all from the creation through the lives of the patriarchs and matriarchs.
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LibraryThing member Devil_llama
The book of Genesis given a new twist as a graphic novel. R. Crumb brings his unique vision to this age-old literature, bringing the characters to life. He remains true to the original text, merely adding his own visuals. Wonderfully drawn, even the begats manage to charm.
LibraryThing member Atomicmutant
Though not necessarily a fan of Crumb's art--I find it grotesque and his human depictions clumsy--I had to pick this one up because of good reviews, and because, well, it's the Bible--with all the "good parts" left in. The telling is straightforward and impressively detail-filled. I think I've
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experienced the Book of Genesis better reading this than I have from actually reading the Bible. Small details, vagueries, oddities, repetition, strangeness, and just plain obtuse tall-tale-telling are all highlighted by placing the venerated text in a graphic novel setting. I can think of no better way to read all the begots and begats than to go through this. As it says on the cover--nothing left out, nothing changed. If it's "editorializing" to present something exactly as written, but in a different format, well, here you have it. From what I can see, it's a straightforward depiction of an undeniably idiosyncratic text, that will cause you to see these ancient tales in a whole new way.
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LibraryThing member -Eva-
I admit that part of my interest in this was to see what Mr. Crumb would do with the Bible! I know his oeuvre, and I was anticipating something quite outrageous, but I was wrong. This is truly an illustrated version of Genesis, without any "interpretations" that would put the text in a bad light -
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seeing as Mr. Crumb is not of an overly religious persuasion, one could have expected some irreverence. I was quite impressed and would recommend this to anyone who enjoys reading the Bible or for someone who never has read it and would like a simple way of getting through the dense text. The book also includes well-written comments on each chapter - some of which actually made clear parts of Genesis that I myself never had understood. Well done, Mr. Crumb, and I hope to see the rest of the books in illustrated form!
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LibraryThing member kaelirenee
Of course, a great deal of interpretation goes into illustrating any text, and Genisis is no exception. This version makes it much harder to skim over passages, so I think reading it was one of the closest readings to the book I've ever done. It would be interesting to see a version of this for
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other books, too.
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LibraryThing member pak6th
Graphic novel depiction of the book of Genesis from the Hebrew Bible, done in black and white. Really brings the story to life though the characters and faces used are a bit grim.
LibraryThing member annbury
This is the real thing, which is to say it's a long way from the Book of Genesis as presented by my Grandaddy the Methodist minister. (Grandad left out all the naughty bits, and skimmed over the cruelty in the text). The written text is straight out of the Book, primarily, the jacket notes, from
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the Alden translation and the King James. But the illustrations!! They add depth and richness and humanity to the text, making it far more interesting that Genesis has ever been (except perhaps in the Blake fragments.) Absolutely wonderful.
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LibraryThing member Clarencex
I loved this book. Crumb has performed a great service. I have never been able to sit down and read a book of the bible straight through. This made it possible. In addition to all the comments already made, I was impressed by how the book of Genesis presents as a hodge podge of repeated stories,
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non-sequiters, discontinuities, stories that make no sense, stories that start out and go nowhere, etc. Just what you would expect from a culture with no previous written tradition. And then there is the slaughter, slavery, gratuitous violence, women as chattel - all coming from a loving God! Once again that forehead slapping question, "How could anyone believe or admire this shit?"
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LibraryThing member Borg-mx5
A wonderful rendition of Genesis, illustrated by the great R. Crumb. Lovingly detailed with all the violence and sin left in.
LibraryThing member mwhel
It's so nice to see illustrations of Genesis that have not been Europeanized and sanitized. This work is true to the content, culture, times and actual words of the ancient scripture.
LibraryThing member Big_Bang_Gorilla
Being legendary cartoonist Crumb's take on Genesis. In some ways, it's a natural for Crumb, with its abundant sex, violence, and abstract imagery, and Crumb is good on all of those, particluarly the latter. Crumb made a good decision to include it all; some of this stuff just can't be made very
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interesting, though.
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LibraryThing member raizel
Illustration is commentary, so a graphic novel version of Genesis of necessity adds to and interprets the story. We see how Tamar's husbands die. We see a variety of clothing styles and day to day life. We also see nakedness and intercourse, but that's because they're in the original text. The
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English translation is from a variety of sources, including the King James version of the Bible and Robert Alter's The Five Books of Moses (2004) and Crumb's own interpretation. (I've read some of Alter's other writings and I trust him.) Crumb's style is not pretty, but it works.

Crumb includes footnotes explaining the meaning of names and endnotes with his commentary, comments, and explanations, including mention of Savina Teubal's Sarah, the Priestess, which talks about matriarchal power and "hieros gamos," or "sacred marriage:" Perhaps Sarah and Rebekah being taken into Pharoah's and Abimelech's court are later tellings of this ritual. He has no comments about the Akedah.
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LibraryThing member mageThufer
An amazing effort by R. Crumb. I was powerfully moved by the visual assault by this very well do tomb. I now long for him to tackle the last book of the Bible. Five years to wait....maybe more. I dough I will see it, but I can hope.
LibraryThing member Bradley_Kramer
Excellently and provocatively illustrated by the one and only R. Crumb, this difficult text becomes much easier to discern. The Book of Genesis is an interesting and ancient tale of the beginnings of civilization, marking the early history of Jews, Christians and Muslims. Crumb also provides some
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interesting research notes about coexisting belief systems that have been left out, primarily that of matriarchal societies.
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LibraryThing member Jazz1987
Out of any direct biblical adaptations I've read or seen this is probably one of the best. R. Crumb does a good job keeping the story unbiased and faithful to the translations he was using. It's very hard to argue that the Book of Genesis (or any religious text) has made a huge impact on the globe
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from literature, art, film, politics, and even everyday activities.

With this adaptation you should expect R. Crumbs art style but don't expect anything anti-religious, humorous, or ironic. In the introduction he states himself he wanted to do the best and most accurately possible adaption (it should also be noted that Crumb see Genesis as holy but doesn't believe that every story is 100% true, more metaphors for something else - like how some Bible studies are taught). I highly recommend it to any reader with an open mind who can tolerate Crumb's style and Bible stories.

What I'm always surprised about is how little of Adam and Eve are in Genesis, two or three chapters (I believe); same thing can be said with Noah's Ark. What the Book of Genesis mainly focuses on is Abraham and Joseph (Jacob's/Israel's son).
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LibraryThing member alexlubertozzi
For some reason, I found it so much easier to read this version of Genesis (or any book of the Old Testament) than when it's just text alone. Crumb's illustrations really bring the text to life in a way that makes the stories clear (even, or especially, the contradictory elements within the
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Crumb doesn't monkey with the text, using one of the best modern translations, but stays true to the source material and did a good job of including everything. There's a reverence for the stories here, not to be confused with pushing them as factual. Nor does he try to interpret or bend them to any particular ideology. But Crumb obviously understands, as he writes in his preface, that these powerful stories have stood the test of time for a reason.

For the sheer dismay it provokes, I love the story of Lot, who offers up his virgin daughters to the angry mob to be raped in place of his guests, the avenging angels. Of course, his daughters end up raping him later. By comparison, Lot's wife's fate as a pillar of salt seems almost logical. Is it any wonder that people have struggled for centuries trying to make sense of the lessons imparted by these stories?

I also really appreciated Crumb's end notes. Very informative and fascinating. I hope he's planning to do further books of the Old Testament. More, please!
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LibraryThing member adeeba_zamaan
This book might offend and horrify you. It might amuse and delight you. If you hate graphic novels or the Sixties' Underground Comix, you'll probably think it's obscene. If you're already familiar with Crumb's work, you'll probably appreciate its attention to detail, its tenderness, its genius.
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It's simultaneously irreverent and reverent. It reconciles opposites. I'm glad I bought it, and although I want to show it to everybody, I probably won't lend it anyone, for fear that it might disappear.
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LibraryThing member aront
Many have written Crumb off as a leering mysoginist cartoonist. But the depth of his intelligence and human insight come to full bear in this book.

Starting with his choice of the Alter translation, a work of art in itself, the investment he made in scholarly research (read the endnotes as well)
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and finishing up with his own artistic insights, this is the best edition of the book I have ever read.

I found Crumb's interpetations among the most insightful I have ever encountered, whether traditional or scholarly. Crumb shows why this work a human endeavor of the highest magnitude and helps make clear why, as he notes, this book is the oldest text in continuous use in Western civilization. I just hope he does Exodus next!

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