Saturday, January 22, 2011

Book-A-Day 2010 # 353 (1/22) -- Odds & Ends by R. Crumb

Everybody has what the British call a lumber room, full of the junk that you don't want to throw out, but aren't going to use any time soon. For some of us, it's an attic. For others, a basement. Some manage to shove it all into the hall closet. Artists often have a wall-full of flat files. But we've all got that accumulation of stuff that doesn't really fit anywhere but still seems to be worth holding on to.

The good news is: if you get famous enough, you can publish it, and make some money out of the deal. R. Crumb knows that -- not only has he had folks lining up to publish (and a longer line of people lining up to buy, which is crucial) his sketchbooks since the late '70s, he also found a home, about a decade ago, for his Odds & Ends, which are a very miscellaneous and random assortment of artwork from 1960 through 1999, with a very few comics pages but mostly other things.

So Odds & Ends has illustrations from small newspapers, a surprising assortment of Christmas and baby-announcement cards that Crumb did for friends and acquaintances, many covers to comics by Crumb and others, samples from his work at American Greetings in the '60s, a clutch of artwork related to Edward Abbey's novel The Monkey Wrench Gang, some posters and other vaguely commercial art, and many other drawings that can only be called miscellaneous. It's all Crumbishly interesting, each in its own way, but it's inevitably an assortment of random stuff.

I still count myself as a new reader of Crumb, since I'm still trying to find my way to his central, essential work -- and that's not particularly easy. Crumb has been blessed with a long, fruitful career, a publisher (Fantagraphics) willing to put out a massively multi-volume collection of his entire oeuvre, and a late resurgence with books like last year's Genesis (my review) -- but that's all meant that there isn't an easily-findable Mr. Natural book, or a standalone Fritz the Cat volume. (If those actually are the most important, central Crumb works -- I think they are, but I could easily be wrong.) This is not really a book for me, or for anyone who isn't already a huge Crumb fan -- it's a book that works best if it elicits reactions like "Oh, this reminds me of X!" or "I never knew Crumb did Y!" But his line is wonderful to look at, and there are an awful lot of good pictures in Odds & Ends, so there is something even for confused newbies like me.

Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index

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