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My sister's been up for the holidays. When we lived overseas, we had a tentative connection to comics, records, and magazines most of the time. So we would read and re-read the same things. You lose perspective when that happens, and some pretty dismal work gets cherished along with the classics. Stuff like old Mad Magazine compilations and sub-par children's records.

So later, when we were sharing an apartment to save money, our memories of these things cultivated an interest in the campy, in the underground. So, two decades afterward, one of my gifts to her was a copy of a movie I saw once when I was ten. It out-camps Priscilla and even John Waters. It was a B-movie musical called The Apple, sort of like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, only without self-deprecation or a sense of humor. It was finally re-released on DVD. I swear, my "saved search" on eBay had been keeping an eye out for it for over eight years before it was finally available for less than $100.

She, in return gave me R. Crumb's Genesis. Now, even with a taste for some underground comics about twenty years stale, I was never a fan of R. Crumb. I could recognize brilliance in a sad sort of demented way, but there's just too much "I Was the Love Slave of the Sasquatch Woman" in his work. Even "Mr. Natural" was a little too creepy.

This, however. Is a masterpiece. I thought it would be tasteless, outré. Not at all. It was very literal, very true-to-the-work. I was astounded. It manages even to preserve some of that Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot feeling of reading passages like this, from Chapter 4:
23 And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, Hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt.

24 If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.
?!???!

What a weird thing to have in this story, tacked onto the end of a geneological series, with no reason before and no explanation after. I'm sure there's plenty of scholarly exegesis amongst the theologians, but if you approach Genesis, as I do, as an ancient piece of fiction, things like this give both wonder and a sense of the archaic bizarre to the text.

And then it occurred to me why. I saw a documentary on R. Crumb, and it becomes clear that he's from a long line of mentally unstable people, grandiose in their delusions, and he expresses his personality in compulsive ways, misogynistically deviant in his sexuality, and with obsessive attention to detail. He is, in a nutshell, eminently qualified to tell the story of Genesis.

Speaking of which, though, has anyone read Sarah the Priestess? After reading Crumb's liner notes, I'm interested. It seemed to make a lot of sense to Crumb, and outlined the expurgated matrilineal society of the biblical era.

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
ginamariewade
Dec. 28th, 2009 09:16 pm (UTC)
I think I did read that. It's the one that says Sarah was a priestess, and Rivka after her because of how she was related in the maternal line, and that's why Yitxchak had to marry her?
barry_king
Dec. 28th, 2009 11:23 pm (UTC)
Well, that's precisely what I don't know. Crumb says it lays it all out for him and made a lot of the hard to interpret passages sensible. I assume it's the one you read, since it comes from the eighties and was well received. What did you think, if you can remember?
ginamariewade
Dec. 29th, 2009 08:21 am (UTC)
If it's the one that I'm thinking of, then it did indeed make a lot of things make sense.
I think one of the theses of the books is that during the historical Genesis era, siblings were counted maternally but not paternally, and counting paternal siblings was an innovation that explains a lot of the ambiguous wording of the holiness codes.
Like "Honor your father and your mother." Not just "parents."

But anyway, it said that Sarah and Abraham were paternal siblings, which is why he could tell Pharaoh that his wife was his sister when they were in Egypt. And Sarah was a priestess, and that's why Yitzchak had to marry Rivka, who was related to Sarah, and then Rachel and Leah were also in this line, and Rachel was the priestess, that's why she stole her father's household idols. And Sarah was the one with the terebinth tree in Mamre. And it also explains why they had so few kids in a time where women had lots of kids.

And that's about all I can remember of the book. It was a good book, though. It has been a dozen years or more since I read it, though.

Edited at 2009-12-29 08:23 am (UTC)
barry_king
Dec. 29th, 2009 06:53 pm (UTC)
Yep. Going to have to read it now. Maybe the KFPL has a copy. If not, I'll have to go to Walter with some give and take.
bmlg
Dec. 30th, 2009 06:22 pm (UTC)
So my first thought on seeing a mention of The Apple was, omg hafta point out the jabootu review ... then I moused over the link.
barry_king
Dec. 30th, 2009 08:47 pm (UTC)
...And now available in WIDESCREEN!
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )