By Art Spiegelman
Published by Pantheon
Reviewed by Marc Mason
What do you get for the classic graphic novel that has everything? METAMAUS is the answer, although I’m not sure how many people will have asked the question. The comics art form was rocked by the release of Art Spiegelman’s MAUS back in the 80s- no one had ever seen anything quite like it, and it displayed the power of sequential art to an audience that reached beyond comics shops. Based upon interviews the author had done with his father about living through the Holocaust, the book’s depiction of Jews as mice and Nazis as cats captured readers’ imaginations and gave them a new way of understanding and interpreting one of the most horrific events in the planet’s history. Spiegelman took home a Pulitzer prize for his work, and the notoriety of the book has stayed with him since. In a sense, METAMAUS is a way for him to work out some lingering questions, offer some answers to questions he has been getting for decades, and deal with personal issues surrounding it all in a public forum.
Certainly, the book is impressive. A large chunk of it consists of Spiegelman being interviewed by Professor Hillary Chute, and her questions do a nice job of leading the author into places where he can really spew his thoughts out and get emotions into the open. It also grants us an interesting historical look at the genesis of the work and the struggle to get it a major publisher- one fascinating two-page spread shows a number of rejection letters from publishers that didn’t get the work or that didn’t think they could sell it, a reminder that greatness takes its time in finding a place to appear.
The DVD attached to the book has the COMPLETE MAUS on it, along with the ability to access audio files of the author discussing particular pages, sketches of early drafts of the pages, and more. It’s an amazing package, one certainly worthy of awards consideration.
Yet, ironically, I have to wonder who the audience is for the book. MAUS isn’t exactly a “fun” book, nor is it something that inspires a great deal of re-reading. It sticks with you quite well on its own. People that own the book already don’t need the DVD, and those that do might find the amount of information contained here rather overwhelming. Thus, I can’t help but feel like the primary audience for this book is academics- professors teaching the work in their classes. That’s not exactly a large demo to target. That’s not a reflection on the work itself, which is extraordinary- but I see this collecting a lot of dust in comic shops.