Art, Books November 25, 2009 By Valerie Palmer
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Chapter 1, The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb 2009. Ink and correction fluid on paper. Courtesy of R. Crumb, Paul Morris, and David Zwirner, New York.

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In the beginning, there was Crumb. One of the founding fathers of the underground comic movement in the U.S., he first came to our attention back in the 1960s chronicling the colorful adventures of Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural. His latest project, The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb, might come as a surprise to some but actually it’s not really such a big leap. There’s enough salacious material in the Bible to make even his Devil Girl blush.
     Crumb, who’s been living in France with his wife and daughter since the late 1980s, spent five years on this project, working with a magnifying glass and a pot of black ink on all 207 illustrations. Despite his inclination for controversy over the years, Crumb stayed true to the text and approached the work as a straight illustration job, incorporating every word from all fifty chapters of Genesis. Avoiding any temptation to poke fun at the material, the result is an incredibly detailed and fresh look at some of the oldest stories known to the human race. Crumb did extensive research for this project to make sure he got everything just right. Words that all alone on the page might have seemed dry and didactic have now been transformed by Crumb’s pen into a story with all the drama of a telenovela. In the book’s introduction, Crumb calls Genesis “a powerful text with layers of meaning that reach deep into our collective consciousness, our historical consciousness.” In this unique edition, he has done justice both to that cultural context and to his own inimitable style. The wrath of God has never been this much fun.