Terror, Reified by
50
(75 Stories)

Prompted By Banned Books

Loading Share Buttons...

/ Stories

This was a hard one for me to work with. As far as I know, no ban has ever been imposed on any book that I wanted to read in the place and time that I wished to read it. I know I borrowed Huckleberry Finn from either the Bayonne Public Library or my grade school library. The same applies to many other books that have been banned somewhere, some time. I can’t recall hearing of a single instance of anyone in my town calling for a ban on any book. These things might have happened, of course, but they never touched me.

As far as I know, no ban has ever been imposed on any book that I wanted to read in the place and time that I wished to read it.

There was the attempt by one librarian to ban an entire category of books for me, personally, but that was quashed very quickly (Bringing Backup).

I took a stab at writing about how many books have been banned, or why, or by whom, but that could take a year.

So, I just started reading what other folks here have posted. I’ve read most of the works mentioned in the various stories. Most I thoroughly enjoyed. Many taught me something or other. But one book immediately stood out. This one changed me, deep inside. This one taught me a valuable and terrible lesson. This book taught me that no matter how much I think I know a subject, I might still retain profound ignorance, and some of that ignorance might be impossible to overcome.

Maus.

I love history and have read much. WWII; the battles, the leaders, the causes, the politics, the Holocaust, are all things that I have read extensively about. But nothing I have ever read has given this white, ex-Christian male a sense of the feeling, the soul-crushing terror and heartbreaking despair of true existential oppression as did Maus.

Absent being hunted by powerful entities that control everything and wish me dead, I know that I cannot ever fully understand the feeling of people caught up in racism or genocide. That understanding must always remain academic. But Speigelman has narrowed that gap more than anything I ever encountered for any subject unfortunate enough to have a gap that needs narrowing. I cannot think of another work that so profoundly educated me as did Maus. The closest that any books have come to Maus are Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaids Tale and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.

The book deserved every award and plaudit that it received. I fully agree that it was Maus that gained the graphic novel full respect as a literary form, to the extent that it really needed to be called something other than a comic book.

I cannot say that I enjoyed reading Maus. Rather, I needed to read Maus.

Profile photo of Dave Ventre Dave Ventre
A hyper-annuated wannabee scientist with a lovely wife and a mountain biking problem.


Tags: Maus, Speigelman, Holocaust, books, censorship
Characterizations: moving, well written

Comments

  1. I’m happy to count you as a member of the club that thinks Maus is truly brilliant. Not just a good graphic novel, but a work of art that stands on its own in comparison to paintings, operas, standup comedy, folk songs, or novels of the unillustrated kind. I don’t know if it changed me in the same way it did you, but it changed my conception of what the best of art can look like.

  2. Suzy says:

    Dave, I’m so glad you wrote this story. Those of us who are Jewish have been immersed in Holocaust stories, real and fictional, from a very young age. But for you, even though you studied WW II, it was different. Glad to know that this book changed you.

  3. Marian says:

    This is good to know, Dave, that art can be profoundly educational. Maus uses such an unexpected format to communicate its grim but essential message. In our generation, being Jewish often meant seeing blueish-purple numbers tattooed on arms of concentration camp survivors, stories of extended family who vanished, and recollections of my mother’s cousin’s wife, who hid in a Dutch attic a la Anne Frank. The experience is in our DNA.

    • Dave Ventre says:

      Marian, I think that one of the genius things that Speigelman did was use cats and mice for Nazis and Jews. The idea of cats hunting mice, mice fleeing cats, is deeply ingrained in us (Americans, at least). Any kid who watched cartoons while growing up has seen that play out time and again. As a metaphor, it was perfect.

  4. Wonderful story Dave, thank you!
    As a high school librarian I was sure to have books about the Holocaust in the collection, including of course Maus which fascinated our students – Black and Brown kids living in New York’s innercity.

    I’ve written about how another Holocaust book effected one of those students in my story The Diary of a Young Girl.

    Thanx again for yours Dave.

  5. Laurie Levy says:

    As you know, I read Maus fairly recently and was totally blown away, both by the content and the genre. It’s sad that school boards find this book worthy of banning for grades 8 and up. Since we know kids will read graphic novels, Maus gives them Holocaust history in a format they are likely to read and understand. I think this is more important than ever these days.

  6. Betsy Pfau says:

    As Suzy said, those of us of the Jewish faith and of Eastern European extraction, have the Holocaust ingrained in our DNA. Many have personal family histories to share. I have not read “Maus”, but know a great deal about it and how brilliantly it depicts the horrors of the Holocaust and has brought the graphic novel into mainstream literature. I’m not sure there is an adjective I can use here, but you vividly describe how essential it was for you to learn about the Holocaust by reading “Maus”. Thank you.

  7. Khati Hendry says:

    Okay, I have seen excerpts of Maus but never read it through. Now I need to do that.

  8. I love your last statement, that Maus was not enjoyable but necessary. It’s on the list now. Thank you.

  9. John Shutkin says:

    Beautifully and powerfully written, Dave, right to the last, brilliant sentence. And a reminder to me that, as much as I know about Maus (and the Holocaust), I, too, NEED to read it. Thank you.

Leave a Reply