Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Book: Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale, My Father Bleeds History

Author: Art Spiegelman

Genre: Graphic Novel

As suggested by Professor Jennifer Nelson, I first read Maus I at the end of the spring semester of the 2007-2008 school year. In fact, this was my first graphic novel experience, and one that I believe shaped the standard for which I read and judge graphic novels to the present day. Art Spiegelman’s execution and exaction is nothing short of amazing. Spiegelman is able to mesh personal memory and collective experience with grace concerning a subject that references a horrendous time in the scope of human history. Despite the atrocities during the Holocaust and the events preceding and following it, Spiegelman, with the voice of his father seems to express the way that personal histories and experiences collide to create a collective memory. Reading Maus I is proof that great writers and novels still exist. Furthermore, this is a novel worth reading, and one that I am absolutely positive will always remain at the top of my book lists.

Book: Maus II: A Survivor’s Tale, And Here My Troubles Began

I recently finished Maus II, and found that it was equally enthralling as the first of the two novels by Art Spiegelman. In this second part, Spiegelman describes the events that his father tells of Auschwitz, and the events of his survival. In addition, Spiegelman weaves in the experience he has of his father’s bouts with old age, and the changes that develop in their relationship. This graphic novel is one that I wish would not end simply because of the deliberateness in voice, the immediacy through which the experiences are translated, and the way that visuals and text are married to relay the very humanness of our actions and experiences. This humanness is important because in the end the reader is left to experience what only the best pieces of literature and art ever evoke—a need to be better and a conscious want to be knowledgeable about our experiences, collective memory, and personal history.

S. Clark

Note: Art Spiegelman will be at UND in a couple of weeks for Writer's Conference!

1 comment:

Elucidarian said...

I first read these in high school at the suggestion of my English teacher and Speech team coach, Mrs. Landwehr. She knew I collected comics and wanted to write a speech on the topic. Maus was probably the first graphic novel I ever read, and likely the first comic form that didn't concern superheroes or children's stories.

I don't think the impact of the history revealed by Spiegelman really hit me at the time. History was still a grander concept than my experience could absorb, though I wouldn't have admitted it at the time. This past weekend I checked them out from the library, initiating my second reading.

I eagerly consumed the contents, stopping with the last page of Maus II in the sort of loss that always follows a good read. I wondered several times during reading whether I was granting each page due attention. I reminded myself of words from the preface to the annual anthology of Best American Comics. The sentiment was that certain cartoonists possess the talent of not distracting you with the artwork while the power of the story envelopes you. Maus is a perfect example of such subtle yet effective illustration.

I was surprised that one copy of the two for each volume were still available at the Public Library. With the author's imminent visit, I expected more interest and less access. I'll have to return them as soon as I let my son have a chance to read II.

My son is 10 with an interest in comics and artwork. While I normally restrict him from needless graphic content, these books are true and educational. He is mature enough to grasp the sense of grim realities offered through works such as Spiegelman's. My son is also old enough to complain bitterly at times about petty inconveniences. Exposing him to actual tragedies of life helps shape his perspective. I then counter these few, darker impositions with a greater quantity of opportunities to appreciate the freedoms we enjoy.