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Author Topic: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread  (Read 17947 times)

JD

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QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« on: 28 May 2010, 16:26 »

Jumping the gun a bit, but what the hey, why not.

Obviously there will be spoilers, reader beware.
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #1 on: 28 May 2010, 20:17 »

Oh right, yeah, I meant to check on the poll but then I forgot to.

I guess Maus won, huh?
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #2 on: 28 May 2010, 20:47 »

I can't wait, I haven't read it since I was in middle school.
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #3 on: 31 May 2010, 18:00 »

so, looking at Amazon.com, they seem to have several different versions/options for Maus.

I assume "The Complete Maus" will be sufficient?
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #4 on: 31 May 2010, 18:01 »

yeah it's the one I have
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #5 on: 31 May 2010, 18:25 »

so, looking at Amazon.com, they seem to have several different versions/options for Maus.

I assume "The Complete Maus" will be sufficient?

He wrote Maus in two sections, written and published separately.  Maus I and Maus II.  The Complete has both Mauses (Mice?) in one.
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #6 on: 01 Jun 2010, 21:02 »

If anybody's broke, Maus is also one of those comics that seems to be a fixture in public libraries (just make sure you can get both parts). When does discussion officially start?
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #7 on: 03 Jun 2010, 06:43 »

Despite having a theme that's fairly close to home, no library in Amsterdam has it available for loan. I can easily buy it online though, so I'm good.
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #8 on: 07 Jun 2010, 09:38 »

My copy has arrived! Exciting.
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #9 on: 07 Jun 2010, 15:21 »

Mine has, as well. It's bigger than I expected!
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #10 on: 07 Jun 2010, 16:20 »

alright, amazon says mine has shipped and that it should be here Wednesday! yeehaw


EDIT:

It's here! And it showed up a day earlier than expected!
I'll have to get started right away since I pretty much only read on my lunch breaks these days. So, uh....don't go too fast, the rest of you!
« Last Edit: 08 Jun 2010, 18:15 by Scandanavian War Machine »
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #11 on: 08 Jun 2010, 19:11 »

Finished reading it yesterday.

Holy shit I didn't expect it to have the emotional impact it did.
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #12 on: 08 Jun 2010, 19:24 »

I know.  When i started reading II (the first chapter) had me tearing up in the library.  It's so touching.
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #13 on: 08 Jun 2010, 19:35 »

I was a bit sceptical about the whole "portraying everyone as animals" thing but it struck me midway through the book that it's actually a very similar device to the "So it goes" refrain Kurt Vonnegut uses throughout Slaughterhouse 5 every time someone or something dies or ceases to exist. In both books the authors are using a fresh phraseology (linguistic for Vonnegut, visual for Spiegelman) to make otherwise jaded readers confront afresh horrors they may have read about countless times before. It's an extraordinarly effective device.
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #14 on: 09 Jun 2010, 22:07 »

I read something that suggested one of the main functions of depicting everyone as animals was to eventually make ludicrous the whole business of racial division. That makes sense to me, particularly in light of the second book. It starts with Art trying to work out how he should be drawing Francoise (bunny, moose, frog?), who we're already used to seeing as a mouse. Then we get Art's ludicrous proposal for her being shown transforming from a frog into a mouse at the word of a rabbi, just to please Vladek. The whole usage of frogs for French does seem to make plain the ridiculousness of the entire concept (I also like the two glassy-eyed fish sat in a car sporting a British flag in the last chapter for that as well).

Which get's me onto one of my favourite parts, that begins at the start of the second chapter of book two. Here people are shown wearing animal masks over human heads, obscuring their features. Interesting that the characters that appear on the subsequent page aren't real, they're stand-ins for the type of people Art says he was dealing with at the time but this is entirely in his head, not a real event. So we've got the German reporter who's challenging him, asking why young Germans should feel guilty, but he rises up from that pile of corpses. He's not a representative of Germans but of how Art's constructing them. Then there's the Americans, bland and unfazed, calmly filming the celebrity and standing on a pile of corpses to do it. The two I find most fascinating are the mouse masked man I tend to think of as an Israeli reporter and the businessman. In the first panel we see the (possible) Israeli reporter he's drawn with bulging muscles under his suit, butting in with his question, then in the next panel he's corpulent as Art says he might draw Israelis as porcupines. Aggressive and fat with wealth, more stereotypes. The thing that interests me about the final figure (aside from the excellent vest gag) is his mask. What is it? Anyone have a theory? It looks to me like it's the only non-animal mask/head in the book, outside photographs and the Prisoner On The Hell Planet reprint. A mask with its teeth permanently bared. But why is this one character, out of everyone in the book, seemingly masked by his profession (or at least approach to it) instead of his race?
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #15 on: 09 Jun 2010, 22:23 »

Yeah you just pointed out my favorite part of the book. As for your mysterious last person, I have no clue. Perhaps he's a lawyer?
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #16 on: 09 Jun 2010, 22:27 »

I actually read this a month or so before we picked it out, yet I couldn't bring myself to read it again. Forgive me if my memory on particular details is a bit hazy.
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #17 on: 09 Jun 2010, 22:30 »

I thought he was just a short-muzzled dog, like a bulldog or something - certainly that's what he looks like to me in the first panel he appears in. Which would make him American, which fits in with his stereotypical ruthless capitalist/consumerist language.
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #18 on: 09 Jun 2010, 22:31 »

I think I just assumed it was a dog mask as well, just with little non-floppy ears that curl up the side of the hat? It made sense when looking at what the character says and the choice of vocabulary, at least in my mind.

I like the idea of using animals to comment on the ridiculousness of racial division, and I think I kinda thought that way when i first had a cursory look at Maus in one of my literature classes, but when I explained it to est he mentioned that it was a bit of a clichéd idea, with the mice being pursued and punished by cats and all that. I guess that kinda stuck in my head, because I actually noticed things like that more the further I got into the book and it was a bit distracting.


I got this for christmas, and read it then, but it seems I need to read it again, because I had to check things that have been mentioned already, and the discussion has hardly started yet!
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #19 on: 09 Jun 2010, 22:51 »

But the heads are generally so uniform. There's a reason Art and Francoise are always in the same outfits, without them they'd be pretty interchangeable. Spiegelman's superb at using minute differences in shape to denote the identity of characters, but you're still relying on context and clothing a lot of the time to know who's who. If that is a dog mask (and I agree he'd make sense as a dog) why is he the only dog to deviate from the long muzzle? Others don't get their racial masks altered by character. And those teeth look too human to be canines. Do we even see anyone but the Germans with teeth? The Americans Vladek meets after escaping don't have any.

I realise at this point I'm probably not going to ever come across an answer that satisfies me. I've been puzzling over those four panels for two or three years by now, ever since my girlfriend asked me about it, but I still like the puzzle.
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #20 on: 10 Jun 2010, 12:49 »

I just finished it this morning. What a story, wow.

I..uh...don't really have anything else to say about it. I can't recall any of the specific faces from the scene in question; I'll take a look at it when I get home.
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #21 on: 11 Jun 2010, 02:41 »

I've read the first half and most of the second and I'm so impressed. I love the fact that the book is about him trying to write the book, it makes it so much more real. I also love the artwork, it is somehow real without being overdrawn. One part made me cry.
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #22 on: 11 Jun 2010, 12:44 »

I agree. It gets very personal without feeling like a biography. It's easy to forget it's more than just a story. And then, in the intermission, there's the writer who is suddenly regarded as a literal genius, when he  is really just a confused little boy. The harsh reality of it all can sometimes hit you in the face pretty hard.
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #23 on: 22 Jun 2010, 06:54 »

So how 'bout that discussion, discussion thread?
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JD

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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #24 on: 22 Jun 2010, 07:19 »

What was your favorite part of the book, discussion thread?
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #25 on: 22 Jun 2010, 07:51 »

It's been quite a while since I read it, but I recall my favorite part of the graphic novels being one scene where the father was in a concentration camp and talking with other inmates, and he was shocked to find a priest amongst them.  It was just a striking point that I felt was important because it stressed that there were many different types of people who were targeted by the Nazis.

I also really enjoyed the segments of the stories that jumped out of the narrative to the life of Art Spiegelman and his journey trying to get the story and write it down.  Especially the opening of Maus II, that was the most intimate part to me, revealing his feelings and the troubles in his life (but this had been discussed a tad already)
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #26 on: 22 Jun 2010, 23:01 »

Well shit maybe we aren't good at these book discussions.
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #27 on: 23 Jun 2010, 00:38 »

Man I tried telling you guys that last time and you were all like "No man we just need a good book".
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #28 on: 27 Jun 2010, 06:28 »

Those are really bad questions. "Why did Spiegelman portray his father’s story as a comic strip?" Because he makes comix (to use what I believe is his preferred terminology), Maus was far from being his first work. Then there's the question that claims Vladek's miserly ways are attributable to the holocaust. Mala refutes this, she and most of their friends are fellow survivors and it's only Vladek that acts that way. Much more interesting is the value Vladek places in practical knowledge. There's the touching scene where he's showing Art exactly how the hiding places in the ghetto were constructed and mentions that it can be useful to know exactly how such things were done in case such knowledge is ever needed. He wants his son to be capable of surviving in case it ever happens again.

One of those questions at least gets towards something interesting. There's been a current in recent criticism that's argued that the comic book is particularly useful form for autobiography. Maus, Fun Home, Crumb etc. Is there something about the form's combination of words and pictures, or perhaps the panel structure of a comic book page that has a particular utility for autobiography? Or is it perhaps that autobiographical comics are the ones that have been deemed worthwhile by an academic establishment still ill-equipped to apply itself to the form?
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #29 on: 27 Jun 2010, 23:14 »

I'd probably go with the later, all practices seem to attract autobiography, but it is the big ol' superhero noir that managed to nab the Hugo.
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #30 on: 28 Jun 2010, 14:51 »

Those are absolutely horrible questions and in fact, I hate most reading discussion questions you find in the back of books or are easily found on the web.  Instead of actually facilitating interesting discussion about the book, they ask you to relate it to what's going on now, or to relate it to yourself, or to simply analyze a few character traits in the book.  So instead of having an interesting discussion you're sitting there gawking at these questions going "is that really the best they can come up with?"

Now, Art Spiegelman released Maus in two parts and the rumor that I hear all the time is that he was angry about An American Tail which is also about Jewish mice.  I can't confirm this rumor but it's not really important.  Since the first volume was released in 1986 and the second released in 1991, do you think the impact of the story was at all affected due to having to wait five years for the conclusion?

Do you think that because the people are portrayed as animals it opens itself up to a younger audience or do you think that it remains unaffected.

Were comics/graphic novels considered at this time to be important works of art or were they simply all comics?  Did this affect the turning point where comics became a valuable and recognized art form?
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #31 on: 28 Jun 2010, 20:42 »

I fail. I still haven't read it.
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #32 on: 28 Jun 2010, 21:57 »

try your local library
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #33 on: 28 Jun 2010, 23:47 »

My favourite part of discussing is bitching at the people who make an effort to get the ball rolling.

So I criticize the questions that aren't contributing to a discussion anyways and offer some that I felt might actually contribute to discussion?  And someone else has called them out as well.   And then you don't add anything other than calling us out? 

Art Spiegelman helped organize an exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery called Krazy two years ago and it was pretty cool.  It was about Comics, Anime, and Video Games.  It was interesting to see how more than 2/3 of the exhibit was given to comics that were featured in his magazine and the video game aspect was....kind of pathetic.  The anime was relatively well done but was shown in like...a single room with Paprika, Gundam, and a few other things shown.  There was also a few things of animation shown but for some reason they chose to show Over The Hedge as an example of 3-D animation.
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #34 on: 29 Jun 2010, 17:08 »

To be fair, you'd be hard pushed to find a significant name in the more experimental end of comics from the '80s who didn't appear in RAW. Not to mention its superb record of reprinting work by earlier giants like Winsor McCay and George Herriman. If an exhibition was otherwise poorly curated but had a load of prime RAW material it would still be absolutely fantastic.

Now, Art Spiegelman released Maus in two parts and the rumor that I hear all the time is that he was angry about An American Tail which is also about Jewish mice.  I can't confirm this rumor but it's not really important.  Since the first volume was released in 1986 and the second released in 1991, do you think the impact of the story was at all affected due to having to wait five years for the conclusion?

It wasn't quite on that schedule. Maus was mostly serialised in RAW before the collected editions (the final issue has the penultimate chapter, I'm assuming the last one first appeared in And Here My Troubles Began). I'm not sure when Vol.1 No.2 of RAW was published but it must have been roughly a decade between Maus' first appearance and the conclusion. It's hard to gauge how the publishing schedule would have impacted on a contemporary reader. I can remember reading My Father Bleeds History and some of the later RAW chapters without access to And Here My Troubles Began but I wasn't reading them as they came out, and the massive impact it had on me is impossible to separate from my being ten or eleven at the time and this being the first holocaust narrative I'd ever read. It's hard not to think of it as one coherent whole now, although I can recall the desire for more, to see the story finished. A bit like two of Primo Levi's great autobiographical accounts of the holocaust, If This Is A Man and The Truce. More than a decade separates the publishing of the two books but I've only ever encountered them as one volume, and I can't imagine them separated.

Do you think that because the people are portrayed as animals it opens itself up to a younger audience or do you think that it remains unaffected.

Probably. Anthropomorphised animals are a familiar concept for children and I think that coupled with comics being seen as a suitable form for something a child would read. Whether or not it's inherently more accessible for children I think it does make it something more people would find it appropriate to give a child to read. I remember I was told I could read Maus in RAW but I shouldn't be reading the rest of it (naturally I lied and lapped up Kaz, Lynda Barry, Chris Ware and the rest).

Were comics/graphic novels considered at this time to be important works of art or were they simply all comics?  Did this affect the turning point where comics became a valuable and recognized art form?

I'm not sure comics are a valued art form in the same way novels and cinema are. Maus, with its widespread critical recognition, has certainly helped but there also seems to be a problem in that a large number of other comic books to receive widespread and serious critical attention subsequently are in some way similar to Maus (Fun Home as biography, Sacco's accounts of conflicts etc) or are by Alan Moore. There's a ton of reasons why that's the case, although it does seem to be getting better.
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #35 on: 29 Jun 2010, 19:39 »

I'm not sure comics are a valued art form in the same way novels and cinema are.

Yeah, quality aside, Maus would have a leg up simply because nobody can really call out the Holocaust as being overwrought, exaggerated or solipsistic. At least not without having some serious sack. You can at least get past the book lining intro without someone deciding you're reading kid's stuff.
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #36 on: 30 Jun 2010, 03:22 »

I think using a comic to portray this particular story worked very well with the switching focuses from the story of the camps and the story of the author. In books that can be tricky to do well, but something about visual media make it easier to digest in a film or comic.

Something I was wondering about was the fact that it was black and white. I know in Schindler's List this was used as a tactic to make a point; do you think that the same is the case here?
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #37 on: 30 Jun 2010, 03:52 »

It's used well and it doesn't hurt when giving the camp that oppressive, closed in feel to have it in black and white. I don't think it has any particular significance as a choice of colour palette though. Black and white was/is pretty standard for independent comics, unlike Schindler's List where it's a very obvious stylistic decision.
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Re: QC Forum Book Group - Maus Discussion Thread
« Reply #38 on: 30 Jun 2010, 11:14 »

Whether or not those character traits of Vladek's are attributable to the holocaust is addressed within the work. Mala refutes the theory, so you've already got the two sides of the argument. There's nothing else to say, which is what makes it a bad question. It takes discussion down a dead end where you either simply reiterate what was already said in the text or start psychoanalysing characters or the author, which is the problem with most of those questions. Asking why Anja killed herself is fairly ridiculous since the period of time covered (with the exception of Prisoner Of The Hell Planet, which is largely concerned with the after effects of her death) is years before her committed suicide. Although there's nothing wrong with a question there can be no definitive conclusion to there's just nothing to say about the matter beyond "she seems like she might have had depression, Vladek's not the easiest man in the world to live with and she did go through the holocaust thereby losing her first son, but we have nothing in her own words so it could have been anything".

I was mainly criticising them because of the sources they came from though. I'm a critic not just at heart but by training and I was disappointed that any academic would pose questions like that.
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Quote from: De_El
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