Read Maus instead of your homework
By Katy Parker
When you’re a terrible, empty-hearted person like me, it’s hard to find things that you enjoy. When you do stumble upon something worthwhile, though, it counts for more! I was lucky enough to become acquainted with Art Spiegelman’s MAUS in the midst of a bleak, long, uneventful week at work this summer, and four months later, I still haven’t found anything new to deeply appreciate. Many people have heard of or read these two books, but in case you haven’t, it would be entirely worthwhile for you to waddle on over to the library and check it out.
MAUS is a personal documentation of the life of the author’s father, Vladek, a Polish Holocaust survivor. The story takes place sometime during the 1980’s in New York, where Art visits his father to record his account of his early life in Poland and the drastic journey into, through, and out of Auschwitz concentration camp. MAUS is non-fictional, but what distinguishes it as fascinating and unique is its presentation. The story is told in comic book format, and the characters are represented as cartoon animals. Jewish characters are drawn as mice, and German Nazis are portrayed as cats in uniform.
The style of the graphics in this book is neither comedic nor joyful. Removing characters from their human form has a very interesting effect; while it transforms the story from a recognizably “real” format, it also manages to make the atrocities of Vladek’s horrifying experiences more accessible and poignant. There are different styles of illustration used in certain parts of the work, and readers are also treated to family photos toward the end of the story.
What affected me the most was the transformation of Vladek’s character and the way that Art came to understand Vladek both as a survivor and as his father. Vladek starts out as a young, successful man in Poland and is stripped of his humanity in every thinkable way. Seeing his character develop through each tragedy of his life and realizing that these events truly occurred evokes much more thought and emotion than the simple appearance of the book might imply. It won a Pulitzer Prize. I don’t know what more you could want. Best of all, it was very quick and easy to read. I read the whole thing behind a counter at work, and you could easily do the same on campus in between classes.