Posts in category 'books'

  • Review: The Complete Maus

    Review of The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman (9780679406419)★★★★★
    Cover for The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman

    The Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus tells the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe, and his son, a cartoonist coming to terms with his father’s story. Maus approaches the unspeakable through the diminutive. Its form, the cartoon (the Nazis are cats, the Jews mice), shocks us out of any lingering sense of familiarity and succeeds in “drawing us closer to the bleak heart of the Holocaust” (The New York Times).

    Maus is a haunting tale within a tale. Vladek’s harrowing story of survival is woven into the author’s account of his tortured relationship with his aging father. Against the backdrop of guilt brought by survival, they stage a normal life of small arguments and unhappy visits. This astonishing retelling of our century’s grisliest news is a story of survival, not only of Vladek but of the children who survive even the survivors. Maus studies the bloody pawprints of history and tracks its meaning for all of us.

    So, as I mentioned in my entry on the graphic novel Watchmen, I chose Maus (and Maus 2) as the next step in my foray into the graphic novel medium. Maus is, first and foremost, the tale of a holocaust survivor. Written by Art Spiegelman, the core narrative surrounds his father, Vladek, and his life in Poland before, during, and shortly after the holocaust. In an unusual twist, the story is told from a sort of metabiographical perspective, in that the reader is presented with a depiction, not only of Vladek’s tale, but also of the author’s experiences as he goes through the process of interviewing his father and writing the book. The result is that we not only learn of Vladek’s experiences surviving the unthinkable, but also the effect these events have on his present day life and the individuals connected to him.

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  • Review: Frankenstein

    Review of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (9780007382613)★★★★
    Cover for Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

    In the most famous gothic horror story ever told, Shelley confronts the limitations of science, the nature of human cruelty and the pathway to forgiveness. ‘The rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open...’ Victor Frankenstein’s monster is stitched together from the limbs of the dead, taken from ‘the dissecting room and the slaughter-house’. The result is a grotesque being who, rejected by his maker and starved of human companionship, sets out on a journey to seek his revenge. In the most famous gothic horror story ever told, Shelley confronts the limitations of science, the nature of human cruelty and the pathway to forgiveness. Begun when Mary Shelley was only eighteen years old and published two years later, this chilling tale of a young scientist’s desire to create life – and the consequences of that creation – still resonates today.

    Okay, calling this a review is probably a silly idea, considering “Frankenstein”, by Mary Shelley, was written, according to Frankenstein, in 1818. Still, having finished the book (which I grabbed from Project Gutenberg and read on my Palm), I felt it worth the time to put together a little write up about my impressions about the work.

    Now, to say this book is a classic is stating the obvious. Mary Shelley’s story about the bright young scientist Frankenstein and his creation has become a fixture in our culture, influencing countless subsequent works. Being the origin of the modern “mad scientist” archetype, it’s hard to underestimate how much this work has permeated our collective consciousness. And yet despite this, I was surprised to discover that the modern representations of the story are, to say the least, a departure from the original work.

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