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In the Shadow of No Towersby Art Spiegelman
Synopses & Reviews
For Art Spiegelman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Maus, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, were both highly personal and intensely political. In the Shadow of No Towers, his first new book of comics since the groundbreaking Maus, is a masterful and moving account of the events and aftermath of that tragic day.
Spiegelman and his family bore witness to the attacks in their lower Manhattan neighborhood: his teenage daughter had started school directly below the towers days earlier, and they had lived in the area for years. But the horrors they survived that morning were only the beginning for Spiegelman, as his anguish was quickly displaced by fury at the U.S. government, which shamelessly co-opted the events for its own preconceived agenda.
He responded in the way he knows best. In an oversized, two-page-spread format that echoes the scale of the earliest newspaper comics (which Spiegelman says brought him solace after the attacks), he relates his experience of the national tragedy in drawings and text that convey — with his singular artistry and his characteristic provocation, outrage, and wit — the unfathomable enormity of the event itself, the obvious and insidious effects it had on his life, and the extraordinary, often hidden changes that have been enacted in the name of post-9/11 national security and that have begun to undermine the very foundation of American democracy.
"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. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"These oversized comics, steeped in both satire and a palpable sense of loss, describe not only Spiegelman's experience on the day of the tragedy, but the emotional turbulence that ensued over the next three years....Be warned: These aren't Sunday funnies." Seth Taylor, San Diego Union-Tribune
"No Towers is provocative and partisan. But it's also very personal. Spiegelman offers his fears, his horror and his anger for everyone to see." Christopher Theokas, USA Today
"From his Holocaust saga [Maus] in which Jewish mice are exterminated by Nazi cats, to the The New Yorker covers guaranteed to offend, to a wild party that ends in murder: Art Spiegelman's cartoons don't fool around." Los Angeles Times
"Art Spiegelman...to the comics world is a Michelangelo and a Medici both, an influential artist who is also an impresario and an enabler of others....It would be almost impossible to overstate the influence of Maus among other artists." New York Times Magazine
"[A]n odd, thin but robust hybrid of a book — an intimate memoir of the attacks on the World Trade Center...a rant on their effects on the world at large and within the author, and a monograph on the Sunday newspaper comic strips of the early 20th century, all within 42 oversized pages." David Hadju, The New York Times Book Review
In his first new book of comics since the groundbreaking Maus, Art Spiegelman gives us a deeply personal, politically charged, graphically and emotionally stunning account of the events and aftermath of September 11, 2001.
What Art Spiegelman saw in his lower Manhattan backyard on 9/11 was just the beginning of the horror for him. Panic soon gave way to fury as he watched the shameless co-opting of the tragedy by a government in the service of its own preconceived agenda. For Spiegelman, only one thing made sense — passionate dissent, and done in the best way he knew how: through comics! This amazing book is the result.
In a large, two-page-spread format that echoes the scale of the earliest newspaper comics, Spiegelman relates his experience of the national tragedy in drawings and text that convey — with his singular artistry and his characteristic provocation, outrage, and wit — the unfathomable enormity of the event itself, the obvious and insidious effects it had on his life, and the extraordinary, often hidden changes that have been enacted in the name of post-9/11 national security and that have begun to undermine the very foundation of American democracy. Finally, Spiegelman shares with us a small folio of classic Sunday comics pages from the early years of the medium that resonate eerily today. He explains that "The Katzenjammer Kids, Little Nemo in Slumber-land, Happy Hooligan, Krazy Kat, et al., comics born at the beginning of the 20th century, were the only things to give him solace at the beginning of the 21st."
In In the Shadow of No Towers, Spiegelman masterfully weaves autobiography — candid, self-deprecating, funny, and harrowing — with a no-holds-barred political statement and a revelation of the cultural reach of cartooning. Scheduled for publication to coincide with the third anniversary of the tragedy, it is certain to be among the most talked about books of the season. Some may be affronted by it, others galvanized. But no one will be unmoved.
About the Author
Art Spiegelman is cofounder/editor of Raw, the acclaimed magazine of avant-garde comics and graphics. From 1992 to 2002, he was a staff artist and writer for The New Yorker, which published his powerful black-on-black 9/11 cover a few days after the event. His drawings and prints have been exhibited in museums and galleries throughout the world. Maus received the Pulitzer Prize and was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Spiegelman lives in New York City with his wife, Françoise Mouly, and their two children.
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