Everyone should get their hands on a copy of Art Spiegelman’s critically acclaimed graphic novel, Maus. It’s even better than everyone has said. Read my incoherent review here.
[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at satsumabug.livejournal.com. My old book review webpage is no longer up, but I’ve pasted the text of my Maus review below.]
If you haven’t already heard about Maus, the two-volume work is what we would generally call a graphic novel, or long comic book, about the author’s father’s experiences during the Holocaust. This was enough to get me to want to read it, but it doesn’t do justice to what an astoundingly original work this is. One thing that always bothers me about the more well-known horrors of history is that we keep hearing about them, and thus become numbed to their significance. We read The Diary of Anne Frank in eighth grade, watched the movie, and visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. And for most of us that completed our education in Nazi atrocities, which serve ever after to symbolize in our minds the worst of human nature. We are shocked and horrified, but we can’t afford to re-experience that strength of emotion all the time, so we put such horrors out of our minds while we go about the rest of our lives. Maus brought all that stupefied shock back to me in a whole new way. The graphic format puts a whole new slant on the Holocaust and somehow, through its black-and-white cartoon images, makes it all seem much more real than it ever did. Perhaps because the author is also learning this story from someone else, he channels the same emotions we have into his telling of the story, which makes it that much more complex and stunning to us the readers.
I think everyone should read Maus, not just because it is so beautiful (and horrible), but also just to remind us how incredibly fortunate we are to be able to live every day as we do.
Classification: This is such an absorbing book it becomes a short read, though there’s a huge amount of human emotion packed into these pages. Find a place where you can read undisturbed by other people who are just doing their usual thing, because it’s hard to deal with the ordinary world when you’re reading about babies being killed and people betraying their friends. But don’t be entirely alone; Maus holds the potential to deeply depress you, and you might want to have close at hand some means to draw you out of the book every now and then when it gets to be too much.
By the way, you may also want to check out Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated while you’re at it. It’s a wonderful book in its own right (I read it a while ago but never had the chance to write a review about it, and now someone else has my copy) and also contains some very powerful perspectives on the Holocaust.