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Art Spiegelman (#110 of 3)

Review: Hillary L. Chute’s Outside the Box: Interviews with Contemporary Cartoonists

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Review: Hillary L. Chute’s Outside the Box: Interviews with Contemporary Cartoonists
Review: Hillary L. Chute’s Outside the Box: Interviews with Contemporary Cartoonists

Almost eight years ago now, Yale University Press released a thick, glossy book by Todd Hignite called In the Studio: Visits with Contemporary Cartoonists. It was a collection of interviews with indie cartoonists, among them Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, and Chris Ware. The book not only reproduced, in its almost 500 full-color illustrations, examples of the work of the artists being interviewed, but also reproduced the comics they read and loved and studied and borrowed from while developing their own way of drawing and of telling stories.

Last month, the University of Chicago Press released a book by Hillary L. Chute called Outside the Box: Interviews with Contemporary Cartoonists. While it doesn’t have as many lush, dramatic reproductions of comics new and old as Hignite’s book has, it’s nevertheless a satisfying survey of the artists who have turned and are still actively turning the graphic novel into a new kind of literature—and in so doing are now being stamped with the approval of academia and its elite university presses.

Chute’s book contains 11 interviews and spans the range of the comic medium’s creativity, from the artists whose work is fully fictional (Ware, Daniel Clowes, Charles Burns, and Adrian Tomine), to work that’s closer to memoir and essay (Lynda Barry, Alison Bechdel, and Spiegelman), to new forms of political journalism (Joe Sacco and Phoebe Gloeckner), to theory and aesthetics (Scott McCloud). Chute also interviews two women who were at the helm of the most important underground comics magazines of the 1980s: Aline Kominsky-Crumb, who co-edited Weirdo with her husband Robert Crumb, and Françoise Mouly, who co-edited Raw with her husband Art Spiegelman, and who today is the art director of The New Yorker.

The Gloom of the Third-Generation Holocatust Novel Andrew Winer’s The Marriage Artist

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The Gloom of the Third-Generation Holocatust Novel: Andrew Winer’s The Marriage Artist
The Gloom of the Third-Generation Holocatust Novel: Andrew Winer’s The Marriage Artist

No characteristic of the third-generation Holocaust novel is more readily distinctive than the well-these-seem-disparate-oh-wait-they-are-meaningfully-intersecting-storylines! structure (though, to be fair, typographical flourishes are a very close second). Think Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated. Think Nicole Krauss’s The History of Love. Where second-generation works—those written by the children of survivors—like Art Spiegleman’s Maus worked through the trauma of the Holocaust by acknowledging its separateness from the experience of their authors, third-generation representations insist on reincorporating that history into the experience of the present, which otherwise threatens to slip into meaninglessness—insignificance apparently worse than chaos and horror and destruction.

Andrew Winer’s The Marriage Artist, the latest example of the proliferating genre, tells two traversing stories. The first of these involves Daniel Lichtmann, a New York art critic, whose wife Aleksandra suddenly and inexplicably commits suicide alongside Benjamin Wind, a young Native American sculptor who had been much championed by Daniel. Forced into examining a life he had preferred to understand as rather unremarkable, Daniel endlessly considers and reconsiders his relationship with Aleksandra, a photographer who had dedicated herself to documenting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “Jews and Arabs who had been wounded, handicapped, and otherwise adversely affected by suicide bombings,” and whose “Russian-Jewishness…insubordinate wit…protean nature, the way she wore her burdens with either naked vulnerability or hard-bitten frankness that could be confused for callousness” first attract Daniel to her only to inevitably keep them sundered. What, Daniel wonders, drove her to Benjamin? What destroyed them? And what did Wind’s ecstatic final show—three gallery chambers filled with “life-size figures paired off and joined by the holding of hands…each pair…sprayed in the air as if by some centrifugal force…in various states of ascendance”—have to do with both?

Comics Column #4 Mapmaking and the Hoi Polloi (Dylan Horrocks)

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Comics Column #4: Mapmaking and the Hoi Polloi (Dylan Horrocks)
Comics Column #4: Mapmaking and the Hoi Polloi (Dylan Horrocks)

XXIII. “There is only the past.”

Jordan Mechner, creator of the long-lived Prince of Persia video game franchise, released a graphic novel inspired by his games earlier this year through First Second books. A publisher swiftly becoming known for high-quality literary works, First Second usually releases imported works from beloved European cartoonists like Lewis Trondheim and Joann Sfar, as well as prestige projects from already-known talents like Eddie Campbell or Jessica Abel—the idea of a video game adaptation coming from their publishing house, even a particularly well-marketed book like Prince of Persia (celebrating a major new game release), seemed something of an anomaly. However, unlike most adaptations of a video game into any other particular media—cinema having notably had trouble with the product so far—this book turned out to be surprisingly well thought-out and often gentle in its storytelling. While hardcore gamers who came to the book out of curiosity may have been disappointed at the minimal level of swashbuckling—or, really, any of the superficial elements inherent to the “platform game” video game mechanics—the book is a rewarding, if disposable, bit of fairy tale confection.