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As Aristotelian tragedy goes, I suppose this is lacking a few of the necessary elements. Still, I was much dismayed to learn that the subject of my graduate dissertation, the artist about whom I spent nearly all my summer reading and writing at the British Library, is going to be at the ICA as part of its Comica 2008 series next month. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that others will have the chance to see Art Spiegelman, whose work in the medium of what he prefers to call ’comix’ is more than a little responsible for the rise and success of the graphic novel over the past two decades; it’s just that I’m going to be out of the country that week. Of all the lousy timing!
The author of Maus and In the Shadow of No Towers is on tour to promote his newest graphic memoir, Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@$!, published in Britain by Penguin and scheduled for release here on 27 November. Combining Spiegelman’s first book, Breakdowns—originally published in 1978—with a new 19-page autobiographical cartoon, the memoir, which was released in the States last week, apparently is thus able to anticipate some of his best-known work while also reflecting on it—self-consciousness being what Spiegelman does best. Even the title seems to me a preview of what we can expect inside the book’s covers. In its complexity and seemingly inexhaustible source of new interpretations and connections, Maus has garnered comparisons to Joyce’s Ulysses. Whether the title of his newest work is an acknowledgement of this comparison, categorising itself, or just taking the piss… well, I suspect it’s a bit of all of the above. Portrait of the artist as a young %@$! indeed.
Forget Salman Rushdie. We have a new interview target in our sights.