Maus II: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman

Maus

I read the first volume of Maus by Art Spiegelman several years ago.  It is a classic in the graphic novel medium, and I felt I didn’t need to add much to the plethora of reviews and praises out there in Internet land with my amateur musings.  The book is part of college English and history curricula now.  But honestly, now that I have read the second volume, I think Maus II is the better book. I think the two volumes are now technically considered to be one book, but volume two was published in 1991, five years after volume one.  The collection won the Pulitzer Prize Special Award in 1992.

A lot has been said about the book’s value as a Holocaust narrative, and how it illuminates the cost war has on families generations later.  The second volume picks up the story of Spiegelman’s parents as they enter Auschwitz and are separated. Spiegelman’s father recounts his time in the prison camp and his eventual release. I think what really makes Maus interesting is how Spielgelman weaves together his father’s Auschwitz narrative, his own difficult relationship with his father, and Spiegelman’s struggle to make sense of it all by writing the book. I have seen it mentioned many places, and it is true: the last page of volume two is heartbreaking.

There are still many who don’t give the same weight to good graphic novels as they do to traditional literature. I have to stress that Maus is not just a graphic novel or comic book.  This is literature, deep and wide and heavy.  If you have never read a graphic novel, do yourself a favor.  Pick up both volumes of Maus and read them.  I guarantee you will have a new appreciation for the medium.  You can find Maus II here.

Moby Dick – Comic Book Love 2

I recently bought a used copy of the Classics Illustrated Moby Dick drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz, and I was not disappointed.  This is the same Bill Sienkiewicz of Elektra and Daredevil fame, the same Sienkiewicz I thought was the greatest comic book artist of all time when I was a teen.

Sienkiewicz brings his unique brand of surrealism and expressionism to the great American novel about dark obsession and madness.  Sienkiewicz’s art captures Ahab’s madness perfectly.  As Ahab’s obsession grows, Sienkiewicz uses a recurring image of a scratchy black and white demonic face that appears in its own box.  This, of course, captures the book’s theme perfectly. Sienkiewicz’s feverish depictions of the crew show how Ahab’s madness spreads to even the most reluctant sailors, and his depictions of the monsterish white whale draw the reader into the fear and mystery that have twisted Ahab’s mind.

If you’ve never read the orignial Moby Dick, Herman Melville intertwined chapters of action and theme-driven plot with scientific chapters on whales and the industry of whaling.  It is a long and strange, but rewarding read. This graphic novel focuses on the action-driven plot and theme to capture the essence of the original story.  All of the famous images and scenes from the original are here: the opening scenes with Ishmael and the tattooed savage, Queequeg; the appearance of Ahab on deck; the making of the coffin and Ahab’s special harpoon; the tri-works, etc.

You can find all of these samples and much more on Sienkiewicz’s site:   http://www.billsienkiewiczart.com/

The Lost Episodes of Beatie Scareli by Ginnetta Correli

I was pleasantly surprised by this self-published novel by Ginnetta Correli.  The back cover states that it is an “experimental novel written as a hybrid of a bizarre television script.”  I’m not sure that it succeeds as a bizarre television script, but it does come across as an engaging postmodern novel about a young girl who finds herself surrounded by madness and indifference.

Beatie Scareli’s mother is schizophrenic.  She thinks she’s Lucille Ball and Beatie’s father is Ricky Ricardo.  What seems slightly amusing at first quickly becomes a very twisted reality for Beatie.  Her mother is in and out of the asylum.  Her father is unsympathetic.  Beatie is forced to go back and forth between her mother and father once her parents divorce.  She pretends that nothing is wrong at school.  She has imaginary friends, one of which happpens to be the reader.  And Beatie handles it all the way I imagine most young people who know no other reality would handle it- nonchalantly looking for help, desperately trying to keep her childhood, and ultimately trying to escape from the situation.

Ginnetta Correli captures Beatie’s voice in short, minimalist sentences.  Beatie’s character and voice draw the reader into this novel.  The vignettes capture Beatie’s childlike perspective perfectly and frame the scenes of madness that make up her life.  The combination of these elements make this novel hard to put down.  I wanted to know what craziness could possibly happen to this girl next and how she was going to survive it all.

I only have a few complaints about the book.  Correli thanks an friend and “editor” in the end notes, but I think the book could use a professional editor to help emphasize elements of theme and character development, while at the same time eliminate some unnecessary repetitiveness.  For example, in one section of the book, Beatie mentions going to the bathroom repeatedly over several pages and several scenes.  The character even mentions that she goes to the bathroom a lot.  It doesn’t move the action or give any insight into her character besides the fact that she is presumably human and uses the bathroom.  An editor would help focus the book and accentuate the elements that make it a good read to being with.

I think this book has something to say about the human condition, which is what defines good literature.  Some scenes contain things some may find offensive, but Correli’s writing and Beatie’s character give those disturbing scenes validity and poignancy.