Maus by Art Spiegelman and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

IMG_20131001_094123Sunday the Litwits met to discuss Maus by Art Spiegelman and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. Obviously, our theme was graphic novels – a theme I was beyond excited for despite already having read Maus. I cheated, though, and threw in the second highest vote getter so I’d have something new to read as well.

What shocked me most about September’s theme reading is how some members really seemed wary of the graphic format. I’ve come across so-called ‘serious’ readers who think comics can’t be literary, but resistance was strange coming from a group of less serious readers. And by less serious, I just mean not professional literary snobs.

I’m not sure if this attitude led to the small turnout that gathered in my living room on Sunday, but it makes me wonder. It also makes me very sad. Maus is a huge literary accomplishment and a worthwhile read no matter what the format.

But moving on to what the ladies actually thought, I think September was a smashing success. Maus was by far the favorite. We actually didn’t end up saying that much about the book because, as Melanie so astutely put it, Maus really speaks for itself. I did bring up one of the most affecting scenes in the novel for debate. When Art’s dad gets upset at him for picking up the African American hitchhiker and spews out a bunch of racist nastiness, I just had such a hard time reading that. That got us discussing how much prejudice is a part of human nature and if it’s something that we can ever truly part ways with.

Our discussion of Persepolis was a bit more historically and politically centered. The ladies felt that Persepolis was a bit harder to get into not knowing so much about the history of Iran and the Middle East. To me, that highlights a huge failure of the American school system. Our schools should really open up to history of the world at large, not just the West.

Our newest member, Shannon, rented the movie of Persepolis and highly recommended it. She did warn us that much of the story had been cut or altered, but that the film still really worked. She thought it was even more powerful than the book. We compared Spiegelman’s cat/mouse metaphor to Satrapi’s inclination to use blacked-out human forms.

As for my personal reading experience, I think I enjoyed Persepolis more than Maus. Mostly, it had that new shininess and covers a part of the world I’m currently rather obsessed with. Satrapi’s sarcasm and perspective were two things I could really personally relate to.

Next up in October is our 3 year anniversary! Victoria and I are in the planning stages of this month’s festivities and haven’t locked down plans yet. What we can promise is cake – there will be cake! And book prizes – big book prizes! Not one to be missed.

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12 thoughts on “Maus by Art Spiegelman and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

  1. Persepolis and Maus are two of my favorite graphic novels. I love that the GN genre has become so popular over the past few years. So many great stories are being told in the form.

  2. I haven’t read much in the way of Graphic Novels but ‘Maus’ and ‘Maus II’ are two of my favourite books. I was introduced to them by Philip Pullman, who loves the genre and in turn introduced them to generations of students who never failed to talk about them for hours at a time.

  3. I can relate to wariness over the GN format. It’s not that I don’t find the books to be “serious” but more that the quality of the graphics sort of is a distraction for me, pulling me out of the story.

    • Several members mentioned that the graphic aspect was hard to get used to – that they felt like they could never get into the flow of the story because the pictures were a distraction. I had the same problems at first as well, but practice has really helped!

  4. Bummer that it was a small turnout. Both of these books are so lovely and so important. I find that many people I’ve taught in my classes tend to have that same sense of wariness about graphic novels, but once they sink into it, they seem to enjoy the books more than they thought.

  5. These are both great books, and DEFINITELY not something lit snobs should sneer at. I prefer Maus, of the two. It was just more interesting to me, I guess – I really liked the use of animals instead of people, and the complexities of his father. (In all fairness, I’ve only read the first part of Persepolis – my library didn’t have the second part and I haven’t requested it yet.) Great picks!

  6. I’ll read nearly anything and I’m still a little wary of graphic novels. It’s not that I expect them to be bad, just that such a different format is outside my comfort zone. I’ve heard great things about Maus and am glad it went over well with those of your group who read it 🙂

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