The Bible, according to Crumb

If you were casting about for an artist to illustrate the Bible, counter-culture cartoonist-icon R. Crumb (think 1960s, sex, drugs, and Fritz the Cat) might not have been the first name to come to mind. That's exactly what makes "The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb" (released just last week) so intriguing.

But if you're looking for a spiritual guide to help you make sense of the Scriptures, don't look to Crumb. "To take this as a sacred text, or the word of God or something to live by, is kind of crazy," Crumb told USA Today in a phone interview from his home in Paris. "So much of it makes no sense. To think of all the fighting and killing that's gone on over this book, it just became to me a colossal absurdity. That's probably the most profound moment I've had – the absurdity of it all."

Not that too many of the faithful, however, are likely to have their convictions undermined by Crumb's illuminated manuscript, however much they may admire the work itself, which was four years in the making.  "Crumb is a phenomenal talent, one of my sages. But he's not always the sage I would like him to be," Rabbi Simcha Weinstein, a professor at Pratt Institute in New York told USA Today. "I'd love to have Bob to Sabbath dinner any time to begin explaining it to him. The Bible is a complicated work and something the greatest minds of all time have cracked their heads against."

In the meantime, a couple more questions for Crumb:

What was it like trying to draw God? "I ended up with the old stereotypical Charlton Heston kind of God, long beard, very masculine," Crumb explained. "I used a lot of white-out, a lot of corrections when I tried to draw God."

And the end result of his project? I've come out exhausted," Crumb says. "I may never draw again."

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor’s book editor. You can follow her on Twitter at   

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