One of the most memorable parts of our dating experience was when we combined our books. After talking about marriage and establishing we were to get married in the fall and I was to move to Tupelo, I went ahead and brought all the superfluous, but necessary, things with me on the 10 hour drive. Sure, it was an awkward, seeing as we had only been really dating for a month, but I pride my efficiency above all things. We went to buy an additional bookcase to add to the one JB had, and marveled at our large collection of both fiction and nonfiction. I made fun of his lack of female authors (this has been remedied), he laughed at all my Jodi Piccoult books and we pared our Harry Potter collection down to single copies.
There were many things I had to learn about this man I was about to join my life with, and one of the most surprising has been his love for comic books. I was a voracious reader from day one, and never, ever considered picking up a comic book. In my head, they were for unintelligent boys who can’t read without the assistance of pictures. Then, due to correct influences of men in my life (thanks, Rob Carmack and Roberto Calderon), and my love for comic books-turned-movies (obsessed with IronMan), I changed my stereotype to really cool boys with endearing imaginations and desires to be the next Batman.
Though I now respected the comic books, I wasn’t about to read one. JB required me to read a really silly one on the flight back from Dallas (Invincible?), and it’s cheesiness turned me off rather quickly. Insistent that comic books aren’t all that way, we got home and JB handed me “MAUS” from the bookshelf. It was to take priority above my list of books, and I begrudgingly dove in that night. Maus was written to share the story of Art Spieglman’s dad and his experience in the Holocaust as a Polish Jew. Since I was about seven years old, the Holocaust has been a subject I will forever be fascinated by, and I knew I would enjoy this book more than the last. JB will write more about the nuts and bolts of why these books are brilliant, and how the art and imagery was the first of its kind, but I’ll just say that I LOVED it. And I will be spending more time in the graphic novel and comic book section of the library from now on, especially since nursing school will probably not allow me to devote any real time to my usual novels. Go find this book and read it. It’ll be good for you.
Maus tells a story of the Holocaust as it is told from father to son. This story could be told in any format and be a great story, but because it’s a comic book we get a few extra bits. The first is, we don’t have to worry about imagery in the writing, it’s a visual medium. Spiegelman got to write was compelling to read and draw what is compelling to see. He also did it in black and white, which, I think, helps convey the grimness of the situation.
On the surface, Maus tells the story of a Holocaust survivor, a story that must be told. Below that it tells the story of a father-son family dynamic and the psyche of a tragedy survivor as seen from the next generation. Even further, we see that even thought Spiegelman’s father, Vladek, experience incredible injustice and tragedy because of his race and unchangeable circumstances, he is still incredibly prejudiced. There is a scene where Vladek is telling Artie not to trust a particular black man because black men steal. Artie then tries to explain why that is wrong to his father, a Holocaust victim. It’s incredibly funny and incredibly tragic. On a whole other level, Spiegelman draws Jews as Mice, Germans as pigs, Polish as cats and Americans as dogs (beagles I think which is perfect).
The Wall Street Journal said Maus is, “The most affecting and successful narrative ever done about the Holocaust.” I can assure it’s not, but it is definitely one of the more compelling narrative’s ever done about the Holocaust. It won an Eisner Award (a very prestigious graphic novel award) and was the first comic book to win a Pulitzer Price. It’s for sure an amazing read and incredible unique but don’t go into it with the WSJ’s expectations.
Go read Maus. It comes in a single paperback or two 150-page installments. It’s fantastic.
Order it here or go support your local comic book store. Any shop worth its salt should have it.