Even Civil War buffs should find this graphic adaptation engaging, provocative and deftly nuanced.

THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS

A GRAPHIC ADAPTATION

Where the format might lead some readers to anticipate a simplified primer, this second collaboration by Hennessey and McConnell (The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation, 2008) again finds them probing the implications of history through incisive analysis and compelling art.

What the narrative terms “probably the most famous and influential speech in American history,” “just 271 words in length and requiring no more than a few minutes to recite out loud,” might not initially seem like enough of a hook for such an expansive examination. Yet practically every one of those words proves significant, as the scope of the book extends from the American Revolution to the present day, casting the Civil War as tragic and transformative but likely inevitable as well. It finds the country’s two most revered and renowned documents—the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution—at odds with each other, as the equality celebrated in the former (though the degree to which that equality was intended to extend remains open to interpretation) finds itself on a collision course with the rights of the states (and distrust of a strong central government, after the tyranny of England) inherent in the latter. Add the profound differences between the North and South—in demographics, climate, economy, political orientation—and the intensification of those with the passage of time, and you’ve got an explosion waiting to happen. Resisting the temptation to reduce the conflict to a morality play—the evil of slavery vs. the ideal of emancipation (though there is that)—or to make President Abraham Lincoln more enlightened on race relations than a man of his time was likely to be—the authors combine historical depth with art that also finds shades of gray amid the black and white.

Even Civil War buffs should find this graphic adaptation engaging, provocative and deftly nuanced.

Pub Date: June 25, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-196976-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2013

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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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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