Sophie Crumb: Evolution of a Crazy Artist

Sophie Crumb: Evolution of a Crazy Artist
edited by S., A. & R. Crumb
W. W. Norton & Co, 2011

Aline Kominsky-Crumb defensively addresses the elephant in the room in her introduction:

I can easily imagine how people could look at this book simply as more “Crumbsploitation”… just riding on the tail of the success of Robert’s blockbuster Genesis. Yes, the scathing critiques are obvious. “Oh, the Crumbs are indulging themselves, pushing their child’s work on their loyal public.” So, to avoid feeding this idea, Robert and I are keeping a low profile. Not wanting to use Robert’s fame to motivate you, we are counting on you, our discriminating readers, to perceive the value of this intimate body of work that takes you through the subtle but dramatic development of a young artist.

I quote this at length, because it’s very hard to argue with A. Crumb’s initial assertion. This book is a collection of Sophie Crumb’s sketchbook drawings from the age of two to twenty-nine. She is a likeable but modestly-talented artist who will always be overshadowed by her historically-important but massively-overrated father Robert Crumb. I’m sorry, but there it is.

Mentioning him four times in the first paragraph of the introduction to your daughter’s book (and plugging his tedious adaptation of Genesis) can only encourage this impression, plus the obvious fact that there’s no way in hell this book would have been published based solely on the merits of the content.

Very few artists (cartoonists or otherwise), except for those at a certain stage of their careers, have had their sketchbooks published. It’s entirely possible that S. Crumb is working on a revolutionary graphic novel or a hilarious comic strip, but as of yet she hasn’t produced any major work, let alone major work of note which would justify a 272 page hardback collection of sketches and cartoons (with a hundred pages devoted to her pre-teen doodles). Not even freakin’ Picasso gets that.

There’s a hundred pages of really, really good stuff from her twenties here, but although S. Crumb teases us with brief glimpses of her undeniably interesting life (split between France and America), there’s no reason for this book to exist. Yet.

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