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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