Sad Men

What Writers Can Learn from the Great Depression

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Art Spiegelman’s Rejections

lareviewofbooks: Art Spiegelman’s MetaMaus includes “an astonishing panoply of rejection letters — some curt, others thoughtful, others embarrassingly wrongheaded — from what seems like every major publishing house in New York City”

LEE KONSTANTINOU

on Art Spiegelman’s ghosts.

Anja and Vladek for Art’s bar mitzvah album, 1961

Art Spiegelman
MetaMaus: A Look Inside a Modern Classic, Maus

Pantheon, October 2011. 300 pp.

In the 1991 second volume of his classic graphic novel Maus, published five years after the first, Art Spiegelman briefly — and dramatically — drops the conceit for which his book is so famous. For seven pages, instead of depicting himself as a humanoid mouse, he draws himself as a human being wearing a mouse mask. When we first meet this new version of Art, he is sitting at his drafting table, balanced atop a pile of dead, emaciated humanoid-mouse bodies, reflecting on the success of the first volume of Maus. In the panels that follow, journalists ask an exasperated Art what Maus means. Merchandisers approach him offering lucrative opportunities to turn his comic book about his father Vladek’s experience surviving a Nazi concentration camp into what Spiegelman has elsewhere called “Holokitsch”: grossly sentimental and commercial appropriations of survivor stories. In response to the trauma of success, Art shrinks down to a child-sized form. “I want … ABSOLUTION,” he whines. “No … No … I want … I want … my MOMMY!” Art visits his therapist, Pavel — another Holocaust survivor, whose own mouse mask bears an eerie resemblance to Vladek’s mouse face (talk about transference!) — and slowly returns to adult size. But not for long.

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    Art Spiegelman’s MetaMaus includes “an astonishing panoply of rejection letters — some curt, others thoughtful, others...
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    Fantastic review
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