There are several reviews I had meant to write months ago and never did. Of course, the bulk of what I wanted to say is largely lost now, but that means my posts can be short and sweet! Which means quick to write, which means I can actually get myself to write them!
Here’s the first: MetaMaus by Art Spiegelman.
The book is essentially a long interview of Spiegelman, exploring the process, research and preparation (it’s extensively illustrated with preparatory drawings and other materials) that went into his classic and groundbreaking graphic novel(s – it’s in two parts), Maus.
When I found Maus on my parents’ bookshelf as a teenager, it was a complete revelation for me. It was my first novel-length and novel-style comic book (as it was in the culture at large), and that experience eventually led me to such other masterpieces as Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home.
Reading MetaMaus was a bit like reading the memoir of an actor from a show I like, an occasional guilty pleasure I’ll admit to (books by Anthony Rapp of Rent, Nancy Cartwright of The Simpsons, and of course Tina Fey’s Bossypants). Spiegelman’s revisiting is certainly more substantive and less fluffy–more of a meditation on the creative process than a collection of humorous anecdotes. Nonetheless, I compare them because in both cases, what I’m really yearning for is the actual thing, not a thing about the thing. Sure, I gain some amusing behind-the-scenes info about the thing, but reading about the thing is not as stirring as actually experiencing the thing.
I cannot recapture what it was like to read Maus for the first time, and so instead I read this Meta work. It was interesting enough at times, and the many preparatory drawings are quite fascinating, but it’s still not the same thing as the original; it’s just a proxy.