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In the Shadow of No Towers Board book – September 7, 2004

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Editorial Reviews Review

Catastrophic, world-altering events like the September 11 attacks on the United States place the millions of us who experience them on the "fault line where World History and Personal History collide." Most of us, however, cannot document that intersection with the force, compression, and poignancy expressed in Art Spiegelman's In the Shadow of No Towers. As in his Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus, cartoonist Spiegelman presents a highly personalized, political, and confessional diary of his experience of September 11 and its aftermath. In 10 large-scale pages of original, hard hitting material (composed from September 11, 2001 to August 31, 2003), two essays, and 10 old comic strip reproductions from the early 20th century, Spiegelman expresses his feelings of dislocation, grief, anxiety, and outrage over the horror of the attacks---and the subsequent "hijacking" of the event by the Bush administration to serve what he believes is a misguided and immoral political agenda. Readers who agree with Spiegelman's point of view will marvel at the brilliance of his images and the wit and accuracy of his commentary. Others, no doubt, will be jolted by his candor and, perhaps, be challenged to reexamine their position.

The central image in the sequence of original broadsides, which returns as a leitmotif in each strip, is Spiegelman's Impressionistic "vision of disintegration," of the North Tower, its "glowing bones...just before it vaporized." (As downtown New Yorkers, Spiegelman and his family experienced the event firsthand.) But the images and styles in the book are as fragmentary and ever-shifting as Spiegelman's reflections and reactions. The author's closing comment that "The towers have come to loom far larger than life...but they seem to get smaller every day" reflects a larger and more chilling irony that permeates In the Shadow of No Towers. Despite the ephemeral nature of the comic strip form, the old comics at the back of the book have outlasted the seemingly indestructible towers. In the same way, Spiegelman's heartfelt impressions have immortalized the towers that, imponderably, have now vanished. --Silvana Tropea

From Publishers Weekly

Pulitzer Prize–winning cartoonist Spiegelman's new work is an inventive and vividly graphic work of nonfiction. It's an artful rant focused on the events of 9/11 and afterward by a world-class pessimist ("after all, disaster is my muse"). The artist, who lives in downtown Manhattan, believes the world really ended on Sept. 11, 2001—it's merely a technicality that some people continue to go about their daily lives. He provides a hair-raising and wry account of his family's frantic efforts to locate one another on September 11 as well as a morbidly funny survey of his trademark sense of existential doom. "I'm not even sure I'll live long enough," says a chain-smoking, post-9/11 cartoon-mouse Spiegelman, "for cigarettes to kill me." The book is a visceral tirade against the Bush administration ("brigands suffering from war fever") and, when least expected, an erudite meditation on the history of the American newspaper comic strip, born during the fierce circulation wars of the 1890s right near the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan. This beautifully designed, oversized book (each page is heavy board stock) opens vertically to offer large, colorful pages with Spiegelman's contemporary lamentations along with wonderful reproductions of 19th-century broadsheet comic strips like Richard Outcault's Hogan's Alley and Rudolf Dirk's Katzenjammer Kids. Old comics, Spiegelman (Maus) writes, saved his sanity. "Unpretentious ephemera from the optimistic dawn of the 20th century... they were just right for an end-of-the world moment." This is a powerful and quirky work of visual storytelling by a master comics artist.
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Product Details

  • Board book: 42 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; First Edition edition (September 7, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375423079
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375423079
  • Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 0.9 x 14.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,129 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Vince Cabrera on October 19, 2004
Format: Board book
Art Spiegelman (of Maus and Raw fame) explores his feelings during and after 9/11. He discusses the way flyover America has taken the destruction of the WTC to heart, often ignoring the feelings of bona fide New Yorkers, and the way the event has been hijacked by a super patriot propaganda machine. He despairs of the way the iraq war has failed to target Al Qaeda and feels a strong rage against the Bush administration.

There's some pretty good stuff here. It's after all, Spiegelman. He plays around with the various conventions of the comic strip, mixing Maus with Little Nemo, redrawing himself into various classic comics ("Bringing Up Father" becomes "Marital Blitz" and describes Spiegelman's household spats) the pages are printed on thick card (it feels like the pages of a pre-school book) and it's all in gorgeous colour.

NOW... the problem is that the book is pretty short, really. Spiegelman accepts this fact and is rather apologetic. He explains that comics take a long time to draw and that expected to die in a future terrorist attack so he didn't get a lot done. His anti bush tone and his questioning of the choreographed patriotism that followed 9/11 meant that his market was very much restricted and so he did not think to draw very much at all. He attempts to finish the book on an upbeat "the way we were" note and reprinting comic pages from the 1900s.

Nothing wrong with that, of course. And his reasoning about the shortness of the book makes perfect sense.

But if I feel like reading Little Nemo or Bringing Up Father, I can buy the appropriate book and don't really need Spiegelman for this. I feel vaguely ripped off. Not because the book is not good, but simply because there's so little of it. Four stars only.
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63 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Jana L. Perskie HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 2, 2004
Format: Board book Verified Purchase
I was deeply moved by Art Spiegelman's "In The Shadow Of No Towers" before I even opened the book. As a Manhattanite, the World Trade Center's twin towers used to be my New York City lodestone. With my lousy sense of direction, I always knew where I was by marking my location in relation to the two buildings, soaring skyward, so visible above everything else. Even now, three years after 9/11, I sometimes forget and look towards the southwest, expecting to see the buildings' lights. For days, weeks, months after September 11, I saw, in my minds eye, almost exactly the same image portrayed on the cover of "In The Shadow Of No Towers" - darkest black shadows of the two landmarks against a night sky - emptiness during the daylight. There is no more eloquent description to mark absence, to recall violence and infamy, than the cover picture of these two shadows.

Mr. Spiegelman is best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning book "Maus," where he used the medium of comic strips to portray the Holocaust, his parents' experience as survivors of Auschwitz, and his own experience as a child of Holocaust victims. Ironically, his parents taught him at an early age to "always keep my bags packed." He writes in the book's Introduction, an extraordinary essay, "I tend to be easily unhinged. Minor mishaps - a clogged drain, running late for an appointment - send me into a sky-is-falling tizzy. It's a trait that leaves one ill-equipped for coping when the sky actually falls." And the sky literally fell on the author and his family that day. They lived in the towers' shadow, in TriBeca, and their daughter was in school that morning - a school located at Ground Zero - a tizzy producing experience if there ever was one!!
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50 of 61 people found the following review helpful By E. Martin on October 10, 2004
Format: Board book
It was hard not to be effected by 9/11. I tried my best to maintain a stiff upper lip, but found myself watching a re-watching an Astaire-Rodgers dance routine from "Top Hat" and the "dancing in the dark" routine with Astaire and Cyd Charisse from "the Band Wagon" (set perhaps not coincidentally in Central Park). Looking back I guess I was looking for innocence and grace, produced in the depth of the Great Depression (the movie "Top Hat") or the height of the Cold War ("the Band Wagon"). In any case I serves as a reminder that NYC is a place of the imagination for billions who have never and will never visit it.

This came through with many comic book artists, who for decades made NYC the site of countless apocalyptic show-downs between superhero good and arch-villianous evil. So much so that 9/11 seemed like an eeire realization of generations of cartoonists nightmares. Many responded by working in themes related to 9/11 into their story lines. Special issues abounded celebrating the first responders as "true heroes." No one can doubt the sincerity of these efforts of so many who lived and worked in NYC and dreamt of "Gotham" or "Metropolis."

Art Spiegelman responded in another way. Going beyound the Silver or Golden ages of comic books to the pre-comic book "platinum age" of the original comic strips founded by the warmongering "yellow journalists" Josef Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst (the Rupert Murdochs or their day) "just two blocks away from where the towers stood." Embracing something quintessentially american, yet also incorrigibly subversive, he realizes his loyalty to his adopted home of NYC.
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