Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Reviews #135-6: Maus I & II by Art Spiegelman

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Yeah, I just got done saying I rarely, if ever, re-read and here I am going back through a graphic novel I read in twelfth grade for a book report. We were handed a list of historical fiction to choose from and Maus stood out as being quite different from the others, which is why I chose it. Like the other time I was allowed to pick what I read for class and chose The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, I was quite pleased with my decision.

Yet I somehow skipped out on the second part since it didn’t sound the least bit familiar, and it was a drastic enough departure from the first that I would have remembered. In the first part, Art has his father tell him of what his life was like as a Jew during the years of Nazi Germany. We don’t just get the story itself, either. Everything about their interaction is recorded here, with Art not afraid to paint himself in a rather unflattering fashion.

The first part ends with him calling his father a murderer, one assumes for his, in a sense, letting Art’s mother kill herself, or at least not doing enough to stop her from going through with it. Then the second part begins with Art commenting on the success of the first part, the demand for a sequel, and the effect all the attention has had on him. It unlocked some of his own demons and he first had to do battle with them before continuing on.

Needless to say, this was an absurdly personal story for Art to tell. You could see it pained him to tell it as much as it hurt to read of his father’s experiences and Art’s cold attitude towards the miserly, bigoted man he’s become. Art, at one point in the second part, shows himself undergoing therapy, but Maus was his real therapy. He needed to unload and unpack this all somehow, and Mauswas just the form it took.

What’s his damage, you might ask? It’s all there, right on the page in its full, unfiltered, stream-of-consciousness like glory. Maus is as much about Art’s own hangups as it is what his father endured during the Holocaust, and both are relayed to the reader in a starkly blunt fashion that has no reservations whatsoever. Think of yourself like the therapist, or someone sitting in on one of the numerous therapy sessions he must’ve gone through.

In summation, if you’re after a dual autobiography/biography that’s beautifully, disturbingly matter-of-fact in its telling of the events, Maus is a must read. Art clearly didn’t write this with publication first in mind, so it’s unsurprisingly rough around the edges; however, it’s so refreshingly honest that, trust me, you won’t care.

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