Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The all-important work...

When most people think of a graphic novel, Maus is probably one of the first books to come to mind, if not the first thing. Well, I just had the pleasure of finally reading this tale of nazi Germany (both volumes). It was always one of those works that seemed comparable to reading a dry essay from English lit. I don't know why - maybe it's just because it has such critical acclaim and has been propelled to the forefront of the medium intimidatingly (like Patrick says: Shakespeare is really fun, but people have built it up so much that it's just intimidating and seems like a literary drag that only "intellectuals" can read, so it puts a lot of people off). But Maus is a really great read. At the beginning of the first volume, there's a quote from Adolf Hitler: "The Jews are undoubtedly a race, but they are not human." Thus, the tale is told from the perspective of mice, with cats as Germans (this also serves to soften the horrible images we see of the mice's treatment). And there are some really awful things going on obviously, but I won't get into them much but to mention one part that I liked in volume two, at the end of the "Auschwitz (time flies)" chapter. We are told by Vladek Spiegelman about the Auschwitz incinerators, where the Jews are gassed in a showering room then brought up to the ovens by an elevator. Well, the gas in the showering rooms is actually a pesticide, something to use on rats and mice obviously (and the symbolism continues), but at the end of the chapter, Art Spiegelman does something kind of interesting. On the porch, he and his wife are being bugged by mosquitos, so they spray the bugs with insecticide and leave the flies tumbling to the ground. I mean, it's obvious once you read this part, but I really liked that. They didn't even think about it, they just sprayed because they were being annoyed and they could. I think Spiegelman's really grasping to try and understand the mentality that goes into something like Nazi Germany. But anyways, there are happy moments in Maus too, but it really is a" survivor's tale," so be prepared to be mortified by what you encounter.

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