Breadowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %&*!
By Art Spiegelman
Pantheon. 72 pages. $27.50.
Publishing a literary masterpiece can be a little like creating a golem, it seems: first you’re just proud you were able to create it, then you’re astonished to see how powerful it becomes, and then, suddenly, you’re scared you can’t control it. That’s been Art Spiegelman’s experience, at least, with Maus, one of the finest comic books ever printed and among the great literary achievements of the past quarter century. One panel of Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*! – a recent series of Spiegelman’s brief autobiographical comics – makes this clear: “It’s no use…,” Spiegelman’s avatar says, glancing back at a monolithic mousy representation of his father: “No matter how much I run I can’t seem to get out of that mouse’s shadow.” (more…)
Everyday Jews: Scenes from a Vanished Life
By Yehoshue Perle
Translated by Meier Deshell and Margaret Birstein
Yale University Press, $38.
One of the fascinating things about nostalgia is how well it ages. While science fiction can turn to kitsch in as little as a decade, personal histories often grow richer, and more valuable, with the passage of time.
Take, for example, Yehoshue Perle’s autobiographical Yiddish novel, Yidn fun a gants yor. When the book – which was recently translated into English as Everyday Jews – first appeared in Warsaw back in 1935, it already bore a subtitle reflecting its focus on the past, its more or less Proustian recherche du temps perdu. (more…)
The Yiddish Policemen’s Union
By Michael Chabon
HarperCollins. 432 pages. $26.95.
There’s no better way to describe Michael Chabon – who’s most famous for his monumental, Pulitzer Prize-winning 2000 novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay – than as a literary superhero. He may not have X-ray vision or the ability to bend iron bars with his hands, but his gifts as a wordsmith are no less extraordinary or exuberant. In a new book, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Chabon flexes his hypertrophied storytelling muscles once again, and puts on a dazzling show. (more…)