Art Spiegelman Sees no Towers

Spiegelman's politics are, as he puts it in a recent comic strip, "deep blue state," which is probably an understatement. He doesn't understand conservatives, and he doesn't want to. His politics seem dictated mostly by paranoia, an instinctual mistrust of the sinister "cabal" of the Bush-Cheney gang. Paranoia, seems to me, is nowhere as a basis for any kind of effective politics, but it can give us effective art when it probes the depths of helplessness that many of us feel in the face of an administration that has given us a ruinous war and the most class-driven economy in decades yet still commands the allegiance of war-adrenalized bubbas and frightened soccer moms nationwide. Spiegelman speaks to the discombobulated rage of the left beautifully.

The book isn't perfect by any means: In the Shadow of No Towers is written and drawn in the almost literal heat of events, and given Spiegelman's tragic shrug of a sensibility, it often leans too heavily upon the used-up iconography of Munchian Scream-like despair or the put-upon befuddlement of Harvey Pekar. Spiegelman's a scrupulous stylist, a master imitator of others as well as an initiator of his own style—in its constant quoting of comic tradition as well as its extension of it, the book is practically "The Waste Land" of its genre—but it's more eloquent about the chords that terror plays on it than on how we should respond to it. There's something about the book that says: After the Holocaust, hey, what did you expect?

In the Shadow of No Towersby Art Spiegelman; Pantheon. Hardcover, 42 pages, $19.95.
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