Thursday, January 01, 2009

#174: Christmas Is Over

I have had four Christmases this year. I am all Christmas'd out. The first Christmas was on the December 24th with my family; the second on December 25th with my fiancee's family; the third was on December 26th with my fiancee and the fourth was today for my son.

Every Christmas I read Art Spiegelman's Maus. It is, by far, one of the greatest novels ever written. And it's in comic book form. I can't remember how I came to discover Maus but it was really the only Christmas present I wanted in, I believe, 1996. I got them and have read them every year because it's so personal. I've read a lot of books about the Holocaust and it is so beautifully written and illustrated and, because it does use pictures, you are able to see the horror of Auschwitz. While seeing these things happen to cartoon-like mice might negate the experience, it is a powerful story nonetheless.

The story opens when Art is a young boy in Rego Park, New York. He's skating with some friends when his skate breaks. He falls, skins his knee and his friends skate off without him, laughing at him. He returns home to his father, Vladek, who says "Lock them in a room without food and you'll see what it is, friends" and that echoes through the story through the whole time. Vladek and his wife, Anja, are constantly being cared for then betrayed by people who were their friends or acquaintances. But the book isn't just about the Holocaust, it's also about Vladek and Anja's relationship from courtship to marriage; Vladek and Art's relationship and Art's challenge of trying to illustrate the unexplainable.

There are no twists and turns in this book. You learn from the opening that Vladek and Anja make it out alive but between the first and last pages you are engulfed in their lives and even though you know the ending, you pray to God that they make it.

And they a huge cost.