Chester Brown's Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus: In stores today!
Well, I guess we blew it by not releasing this book on Easter, but I suppose April 12 is still pretty good. It's all in the air, after all. And indeed, we've been looking forward to this day and preparing for it for a very long time. And by that, I mean frantically polling the office to find out who knows what about the bible. The response: overwhelming shrugs; some frenetic shouting of the seven deadly sins; Alison holding up a fish. So we ordered the New Oxford Annotated Bible—Craig Thompson's recommendation—and now we've all at least been in the presence of The Book.
But it turns out none of that really matters. Chester Brown's Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus does not require deep knowledge of the gospels, or prostitution, or even comics for that matter. Chester's pacing and delivery of these classic bible stories turns them into something I never knew the bible could be—afterall, Chester has a knack for turning things I've never shown much interest in (Canadian history, for example) into something wholy fascinating, engaging, and clear. Of course, it's Chester's cartooning. And in Mary Wept, we see some of the best we've seen from him, which says a lot, when you're talking about one of the best cartoonists in the world, past or present. We're not really allowed to declare favourites over here (we love all our cartoonists equally, I swear!!) but no one really gets upset when you say Chester is your favourite cartoonist, you know?
I think it's fair to assume the cartooning in this book will not be what people are talking about though, so I just wanted to make sure it was noted here. I could, and have, spent hours just staring at these pages, at the proportions of Chester's characters and how perfect they move on the page (I'm talking about Chester's rendering of humans here, not the female form, thank you), his ability to convey so much with a blank stare, and know just when to mercilessly crosshatch a background or leave it bare. Chester's vision of the biblical world is now what it all looks like to me, because I can't get these images out of my head. Which is certainly no complaint.
And then of course you've got prostitution, and to a much larger extent, religious obedience. Chester certainly has a motive in writing this book, which anyone who's read Paying For It should be familiar with, but the larger question in Mary Wept, to me, is not really whether Jesus approved of prostitution or not, but more the ideas surrounding the premise of religious obedience in general, and whether or not that was really something Jesus himself intended. Mary Wept asks readers to question the basic principles of Christianity as we know them today—did the translators get everything right? Might a closer reading suggest we've been slightly off base all along? These are bold questions, important ones to ask, and Chester's arguments are compelling.
From retellings of classic stories, to prostitution, to charges of biblical mistranslations, to, of course, pages and pages of dense notes and annotations (one-third of the book, to be exact), Mary Wept has a lot packed in, a lot ot digest, and a TON to talk about (book clubbers, take my hint here!). I'm very much looking forward to hearing what you all have to say about it. Chester will be on tour in Canada and the US, with his first book release tour stop TOMORROW, April 13, in Berkley, CA at Pegasus Books. Full tour info here!