Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How Crumb's Life Describes Genesis Rather Than the Other Way Around - Ben Carlson

Robert Crumb is a man that values the people in his life. This is something that is seen time and time again in the film depicting his life. Crumb’s life does a better job describing the level of realism that he uses in Genesis rather than how Genesis helps explain the life that he has had. The book of Genesis is really an example of how he grew up and how he views art as a form of expression.

He admires his memories of people and the stories that people have provided him throughout his life. In the movie he talks about some of his childhood memory and how he went into his mother’s closet as a child and humped rainboots because he was attracted to the boots that belonged to one of his aunts and it shows the realistic comic that he made of this memory. This first part led me to believe that his desire to grasp the reality of a story and to not discount his own memory of events that he detailed in comic affected his illustration of the book of Genesis. I believe Crumb depicted the book of Genesis with such reality to grasp the situation as something that really happened and illustrating the book as such helped him to believe it.

Crumb was a man that appreciated drawing and that is how he expressed himself. Looking at his childhood when he was shy and nervous around girls in his class he would draw and not understand why they weren’t impressed and why they didn’t like him. He was a man that was developed by the system to draw for himself and for his own enjoyment. This was a man that was always drawing and did not want to ever stop. The best way for him to show who he was and the person that he was, was by drawing. He drew because that is how he expresses himself. There are a lot of people and it is the normal standard for people to keep a journal or to write some of their memories that they would rather have a copy of in case they would ever forget. There are many times throughout the film on Crumb where he would express himself and show some of his memories in comic form or in another artistic form. This was how he remembered parts of his life, he would create these comics to hold onto his memories, and to me this helped keep them real to him.

Crumb was a man that was on the outside looking in and he wanted to embrace the culture and leave his mark. “The whole culture is one unified field of bought, sold, market researched everything. It used to be that people fermented their own culture, it took hundreds of years and it evolved over time and now it is gone in America.” [Crumb 1995]. This was a man that wanted to impact the culture and not always be someone that was bought by society. Using the book of Genesis to illustrate, makes sense to me for a work that he would do. While staying away from a modern book, one that has gripped the culture by its popularity and sales he was avoiding the culture that was so dominated by the sales and market research. Crumb was able to focus purely on the interpretation of text and draw, something that must be a huge desire to someone so appreciative of art and so disgusted with how some of culture operates.

Drawing the book of Genesis in a realistic form allowed him to really believe what he was drawing, I think. He was able to believe what he was drawing and portray the message in a serious tone. He did not desire his work to be taken as a joke when working on a book as serious as Genesis. This was a man that took his work seriously and when he wanted his joke to be funny or be taken as a joke he would draw it as such, something that he was used to for some of his work. While he was drawing the illustrations he found ways to draw supernatural beings in very realistic ways (God and the divine being Jacob wrestles with) and from an outside perspective, I believe this would be a very believable story because of the way he drew it. If he drew this story in a more animated and cartoon way, than people on the outside might take it more as a story to laugh and joke about than in the serious manner in which I take it. I believe that Crumb while with his many flaws and his many disturbing comics he wanted to express a story that he appreciated in its complexities as a story that others would believe and appreciate, and he does this through his realistic art form. The way in which he grew up and the way in which he thought to express himself was through art and the more realistic he made it, the more believable his stories were and how he intended people to interpret them was on a more serious level. The level of realism that he used in the book of Genesis just shows more about how he uses realism or cartoony nature in his work to convey different messages.


  1. This is not an exact following of prompt 2 but a look at how the realism in Crumb's work of Genesis can be explained by the life that he led prior to the work, as we are told about in the film.

  2. The parts are greater than the whole in this one. Relating Genesis to the way he grew up is a fine idea; relating the realism of the text to Crumb's relentless portrayal of his own memories is a good one, too. The idea that he returned to Genesis in order to get at some earlier/different notion of culture than he has access to in his own time/place is a good one, too.

    Where you don't do a great job, though, is connecting all of these ideas, or turning one of them into a coherent argument. Take the third paragraph as an example of the problems - it's a series of statements, each one reasonable in itself, but collectively not progressing, not moving in any particular direction.

    Short version: I don't see you as really advancing a coherent argument here through the full essay, although you have several interesting starts.