A fast-paced and engaging biblical dramatization.

The Tragedy of Moses

A revisionary look at the story of Moses.

Kanbar (Don’t Let Your Film Die, 2015, etc.) prefaces his fun, poetic take by listing some of the questions surrounding the enigmatic, titular biblical figure—the foremost being: why does God refuse to let him enter the Promised Land? Moses’ tragedy, and particularly the fact that his fate is so out of synch with his service, holds a fascination for Kanbar. This book is his fanciful, speculative attempt at filling in gaps in the story, taking the form of a stage drama along the lines of the Broadway hit Hamilton. In it, a “Leader” takes on expository narration duties, but there are also speaking parts for a wide variety of characters from Scripture, including Moses; his brother, Aaron; the pharaoh who kept the Israelites in bondage in Egypt; a chorus of Israelites; and God himself. Kanbar opts not to adopt the stilted cadences of the King James Bible; instead, he uses a conversational, slangy diction throughout as he takes his audience through the familiar events of Moses’ life, from killing an Egyptian overseer (“This Egyptian dude / is goin’ to be dead”) to confronting the pharaoh and repeatedly demanding that the Israelites be set free. The pharaoh at one point responds, “You sound like a broken record. / Losing free labor, you know, / would cost me a lot of dough. / So the answer is still ‘No.’ ” Each segment begins with some spirited scene-setting by the Leader, proceeds through dramatic exchanges that often sound as if they’re meant to be sung rather than spoken, and concludes with a “Source and Commentary” paragraph for readers. The characters’ contemporary-sounding dialogue doesn’t always work, and it often feels forced (as when one character shouts out “Oy vey!”). Even so, the dramatic format does an effective job of dusting off these canonical characters and holding them up to fresh scrutiny. Indeed, Kanbar’s enthusiasm is so infectious that readers will wish the “Source and Commentary” sections were longer.

A fast-paced and engaging biblical dramatization.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5394-4168-7

Page Count: 118

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

THE BOOK OF GENESIS ILLUSTRATED

The Book of Genesis as imagined by a veteran voice of underground comics.

R. Crumb’s pass at the opening chapters of the Bible isn’t nearly the act of heresy the comic artist’s reputation might suggest. In fact, the creator of Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural is fastidiously respectful. Crumb took pains to preserve every word of Genesis—drawing from numerous source texts, but mainly Robert Alter’s translation, The Five Books of Moses (2004)—and he clearly did his homework on the clothing, shelter and landscapes that surrounded Noah, Abraham and Isaac. This dedication to faithful representation makes the book, as Crumb writes in his introduction, a “straight illustration job, with no intention to ridicule or make visual jokes.” But his efforts are in their own way irreverent, and Crumb feels no particular need to deify even the most divine characters. God Himself is not much taller than Adam and Eve, and instead of omnisciently imparting orders and judgment He stands beside them in Eden, speaking to them directly. Jacob wrestles not with an angel, as is so often depicted in paintings, but with a man who looks not much different from himself. The women are uniformly Crumbian, voluptuous Earth goddesses who are both sexualized and strong-willed. (The endnotes offer a close study of the kinds of power women wielded in Genesis.) The downside of fitting all the text in is that many pages are packed tight with small panels, and too rarely—as with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah—does Crumb expand his lens and treat signature events dramatically. Even the Flood is fairly restrained, though the exodus of the animals from the Ark is beautifully detailed. The author’s respect for Genesis is admirable, but it may leave readers wishing he had taken a few more chances with his interpretation, as when he draws the serpent in the Garden of Eden as a provocative half-man/half-lizard. On the whole, though, the book is largely a tribute to Crumb’s immense talents as a draftsman and stubborn adherence to the script.

An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-393-06102-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2009

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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