7. and 8. Maus I: My Father Bleeds History
and Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began
(graphic novels) – Art Spiegelman. This complex and subtle Pulitzer prizewinning graphic novel is a must-read. More than once, to tease out all the levels of meaning. I didn’t know what to make of it at first. It seemed strange to see the characters drawn as animals. Then, later on when Art’s old comic from the 1970s is found, it seems even stranger to see Art and his family represented as human. It was almost like they were too vulnerable, so it was a relief and felt normal when they reverted to mice again.
I also had reservations about the juxtaposition of the WWII storyline and the subplot chronicling Art’s frustration, anger and worry over his father’s increasing frailty, his realincomprehensible behaviors (like destroying Art’s mother’s diary) and his stubborn habits. It works though — Young Vladek Spiegelman is brave, cool and resourceful. He’s a survivor. When Art was irritated with Vladek, I understood that, but I felt much more compassion for Vladek, seeing him as a shadow of his former self. I was irritated with Art because it felt as if he couldn’t understand what Vladek went through, even though Art is getting the story from his father and Art is the one who is presenting the fear and horror of the Holocaust to the readers. Quite an interesting feat with this arrangement of layers. Almost sleight-of-hand. Art Spiegelman really digs in and is unafraid to show himself as uncomprehending and angry, and all of that makes Maus that much more powerful.
9. A Boy Of Good Breeding
(novel) – Miriam Toews. No one can accuse Miriam Toews’ novels of being plot-driven. Her method is to create lovable, quirky characters, give them odd names (like Knute or Summer Feelin’) then mine those quirks and oddnesses for all they’re worth.
On one hand, I actually felt as if life in Algren, Manitoba (population, 1,500 — give or take a few) might be what life is really like in a small town (the smallest?) in Canada and I was awash in all that folksy charm. On the other hand, Hosea Funk, the mayor of Algren was really quirky and really sweet and I began to get that jangly feeling that occurs when I sit on the couch eating Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes right out of the box and watch too many sitcom marathons in a row on TV Land.
Shockingly, I found myself wanting Anne-Marie MacDonald to darkly descend and overpower Miriam Toews and order her out of the office to the nearest Tim Horton’s just for a couple of chapters so she could shake her bleak, depressing thang and mitigate some of that sweetness and quirk.
Even though this wasn’t my favorite read of the month, I’m grateful to Shanna
for passing it along to me, happy that I’m now a Grain Elevator or something like that (4 books) in The Canadian Book Challenge and believe it or not, still game to read another Toews book, preferably
the memoir about her father, but The Flying Troutmans
would suit me fine, too.
(poetry) – Basho. How can verse so compressed be so fully sensual, playful and at
times, belly-laugh humorous? These haiku were composed in the 1680s and 1690s, but they feel so fresh. Since I did a triple play of old, global and poetry with this selection, my Tough & Cool Inner Bookworm is completely docile right now and has vowed only the kindest words in next year’s evaluation post. That’s what I’m talking about, Bookbitch. Here are several of our favorite haiku from Basho: (who was only 50 when he died. eeeek.)
In my new robe
this morning —
Winter downpour —
even the monkey
needs a raincoat.
Bright moon: I
stroll around the pond —
hey, dawn has come.
Moon-daubed bush-clover —
ssh, in the next room
against my feet.
Rainy days —
Girl cat, so
thin on love
Year’s end, all
corners of this
floating world, swept.
Samurai talk —
Now then, let’s go out
to enjoy the snow…until
I slip and fall.