Tuesday, August 28, 2018

MetaMaus: A Look Inside a Modern Classic, Maus Art Spiegelman Pantheon 300 Pages $35.00 ISBN: 978-0375423949

For the past sixty years, Holocaust survivors have told their stories in writing, but few books have revolutionized the way people looked at the Holocaust as much as Maus, Art Spiegelman’s graphic biography of his father, Vladek. In his new autobiography, MetaMaus, Spiegelman takes readers through the process of his innovative graphic narrative. He tells us why he chose to tell his father’s story in comic book form, why he chose to represent Jews as mice, and how he responded to the backlash he received after Maus was published. He also includes interviews with his wife and children, discussing their roles in the creation of Maus and how it changed their lives.

Not surprisingly, the most striking feature of this autobiography is Spiegelman's artwork. The book is filled with his sketches, inspirations, previous work, and even family photos. Also included is a DVD that contains Maus I and II and “ an exemplary thimbleful from the vast “Maus Midrash.”

MetaMaus iis as brilliant and paradigm-shattering as Spiegelman’s award-winning modern classic, Maus. It is extremely valuable for its insights into the artistic process, and it contextualizes a life of creative imagination and the haunting questions that surround and penetrate it. Indeed, this is a work of genius. Even if it were only a memoir about writing a memoir, it would stand as extraordinary in itself. But in new and striking ways the book (though we need another, richer name for this piece of art) includes, through text, drawings, photos, and oral testimony, a grappling with the questions that surrounded Maus and persistently followed in its wake: Why the Holocaust, why mice, why comics? Spiegelman not only confronts and wrestles with these questions, he also tries valiantly to tell us something about the meaning of Jewishness across the generations. He often succeeds.

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