The Arty Semite

Art Spiegelman Struggles With Success

By Eitan Kensky

Courtesy BJFF

Art Spiegelman just wants to be left alone. Or, rather, he would really like it if parts of his career and biography were minimized, and others celebrated more. The central tension, both in the long conversations he had with University of Chicago professor Hillary Chute, the germ and base level of “MetaMaus” (2011), and now in Clara Kuperberg and Joelle Oosterlinck’s new documentary, “The Art of Spiegleman,” is the anxiety of success. Spiegelman is painfully self-aware that he will be forever known (and, often, only known) for the path breaking Maus (1980-1991); fearful that he will become the “Elie Wiesel of comics”; and worries that he cannot seem to escape the autobiographical voice. Somehow, some way, his career turned from the one he imagined and he’s never been able to get the old one back.

“The Art of Spiegelman,” now screening as part of the Boston Jewish Film Festival, is a medium-length documentary. At 45 minutes, it’s perfect for television. Most of the movie consists of interviews with Spiegelman, though his wife and daughter become increasingly prominent as the movie progresses. There are photographs of Spiegelman’s early years, and archival footage of Spiegelman and his wife printing Raw, the legendary little magazine of what we now call sequential art, but really should just call comics.

Non-Spiegelmans, like the illustrator Charles Burns, make appearances, but they are there to tell personal stories and to contextualize Spiegelman’s life. Learned, bespectacled academics with receding hairlines are sadly absent. This is not a critical documentary devoted to analyzing the contributions Spiegelman made to either his field or the whole of arts and letters, but one that allows him to tell his own story. It is a good, entertaining documentary, though limited by everything just mentioned. Those who already know Spiegelman’s work will wish it cut deeper, while those unfamiliar with his art will only have their interest lightly piqued.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Maus, Film, Comic Books, Comics, Documentaries, Eitan Kensky, Boston Jewish Film Festival, Art Spiegelman

Art Spiegelman: ‘Why Comics? Why Mice? Why the Holocaust?’

By Ezra Glinter

The book trailer is out for Art Spiegelman’s much-anticipated “MetaMaus,” a look at the creation of his iconic “Maus” graphic novel, now celebrating its 25th anniversary.

In the video Spiegelman says that “Maus” is more about the relationship between a father and son “trying to understand each other” than it is about the Holocaust. In the original “Maus,” Spiegelman tells the story of his father, Vladek, from before the Holocaust to his later life in New York.

In “MetaMaus” Spiegelman portrays himself dealing with the unexpected success of his creation and always having to answer the same three questions: “Why Comics? Why Mice? Why the Holocaust?” “MetaMaus,” Spiegelman says, is an attempt to answer these questions once and for all.

Watch the book trailer for ‘MetaMaus’:

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: MetaMaus, Maus, Graphic Novels, Comics, Books, Art Spiegelman, Book Trailers

Howard Stern To Get a Comic Book

By Gary Shapiro

Fresh from being attacked by comedian Andy Dick as a “shallow, money-grubbing Jew,” with a “big fat hook nose,” Howard Stern has a new way to be his provocative heebie self. The shaggy-haired star has his own comic book that gives him new opportunities to mouth off.

The “Howard Stern” title is part of a line of comics aimed for the 18- to 35-year-old male market, said Darren G. Davis, president of Bluewater Productions, Inc.

Larry “Ratso” Sloman, who worked with Stern on his books “Private Parts” and “Miss America” is not surprised by the interest in Stern. He told The Arty Semite that Stern is popular because he has the courage to say what others won’t. “Beneath that image,” Sloman continued, “Howard is probably the hardest working guy I’ve ever met.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Howard Stern, Ben Katchor, Barbara Walters, Art Spiegelman, William Shatner

Judging Gary Shteyngart and Art Spiegelman's Taste in Books

By Gary Shapiro

Christina Foxley/Strand Book Store

What is on Gary Shteyngart’s mind? Only a clairvoyant would know. It’s much easier to surmise what’s on his bookshelves.

The Strand Book Store in Greenwich Village has set up a display in which well-known writers take turns exhibiting their favorite books. In June, it looked as though a bookcase in Gary Shteyngart’s living room had come to life, strolled into the book store, and tripped, dropping all its contents neatly onto a table.

Shteyngart has bonded with the store. As he writes on the store’s website: “When I was a half-starving New York writer (1995-2002), the Strand offered salvation in its 50% off aisles, cast-off reviewer copies that lined my first IKEA bookshelves.” He adds: “I will never forget the days of saving up two $20 bills to score a whole bagful of books from the Strand, my stomach filled with cheap hot dogs and a poor man’s version of Pepto Bismol…”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Thane Rosenbaum, Strand Book Store, Nora Ephron, Jennifer Egan, Graphic Novels, Gary Shteyngart, Gary Shapiro, Derek Parker Royal, Books, Ben Katchor, Art Spiegelman

Out and About: Israeli Judaica Thieves Nabbed; Rise of the Classical Mandolin

By Ezra Glinter

Grammy nominated mandolinist Avi Avital

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Zackary Sholem Berger, Tuviah Friedman, True Grit, Thomas Ades, Schneerson Library, Out and About, Other Israel Film Festival, New World Symphony, Moyshe Nadir, Milan, Michael Tilson Thomas, Maus, Judaica, Joel Coen, Grammy Awards, Frank Gehry, Ethan Coen, Emanuel Vardi, Eleven Eleven, Dvoyre Fogel, Coen Brothers, Avi Avital, Art Spiegelman, Angouleme International Comics Festival

Forward Fives: 2010 in Performance

By Forward Staff

In this, the second annual Forward Fives selection, we celebrate the year’s cultural output with a series of deliberately eclectic choices in film, music, theater, exhibitions and books. Here we present five of the most important Jewish performances of 2010. Feel free to argue with and add to our selections in the comments.

Hapless Hooligan in ‘Still Moving’

What happens when you put a prominent modern dance company in a room with one of the great innovators of the graphic novel? The answer in this case was “Hapless Hooligan,” a collaboration between Pilobolus Dance Theater and Art Spiegelman, creator of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Maus” series. Premiering this past July at the Joyce Theater, the vaudeville-esque piece included an animated sequence based on Spiegelman’s drawings, which was projected onto a backdrop for the dancers to interact with. Though somewhat unorthodox, “Hapless Hooligan” was a creative gamble that paid off.

Read the Forward’s review of ‘Hapless Hooligan in Still Moving’ here.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Theater J, Theater, Sid Silver, Shakespeare in the Park, Public Theater, Pilobolus, Performances, Nick Cave, Next Wave, Meyer Levin, Metamorphosis, Maus, Merchant of Venice, Mandy Patinkin, Kafka, Imagining Madoff, Hapless Hooligan, Gregor Samsa, Forward Fives 2010, Forward Fives, Deborah Margolin, Bernard Madoff, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Dance, Compulsion, Berkeley Repertory Theater, Art Spiegelman, Anne Frank, Al Pacino, Yale Repertory Theater

Grimm Dioramas for Young and Old

By Lisa Mayer

When Tine Kindermann was a little girl, she thought all Americans liked to dress up as trees. Patrolling her city in West Germany after the Holocaust, camouflaged soldiers would wear leaves as part of their uniforms.

Courtesy Tine Kindermann/NY Studio Gallery

Now, after 20 years living in the United States, Kindermann has let us peep into secret worlds, juxtapositions of innocence and horror, childhood fear and fantasy, based on the German Grimm Brothers’ “Nursery and Household Tales” — the stories with which she, over there, and we, over here, grew up.

Kindermann’s exhibit “Rated: Grimm,” which ran until October 23 at the NY Studio gallery, featured dioramas made from drawers and crates salvaged from the streets of the Lower East Side. Her figurines are dead-white, beautifully sculpted and precisely placed into deceptively spare surroundings. Each moment, Kindermann says, was chosen “before the climax of the story — the time of terrible stillness, time stopping for a heartbeat.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tine Kindermann, Studio Gallery, Rose Blanch, NY, R. Crumb, Roberto Innocenti, Maus, Hansel and Gretel, Exhibits, Grimm Brothers, Genesis, Fairy Tales, Dachau, Buchenwald, Bruno Bettelheim, Art Spiegelman, Visual Art

Jewish Comics and Graphic Novels, From One Generation to the Next

By Benjamin Ivry

Fans of comic books and graphic novels are mourning the death of Harvey Pekar, who died today in his Cleveland home at the age of 70. Pekar was mainly known for authoring the autobiographical series “American Splendor,” which documented his lower-middle class Jewish upbringing in Ohio. Pekar also wrote “Our Cancer Year,” after being diagnosed with lymphatic cancer in 1990, and more recently, “The Beats,” a graphic history of the Beat generation.

Even after Pekar’s death, however, there are things to look forward to in the world of Jewish comic books and graphic novels. On September 25, “Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women” opens at San Francisco’s Cartoon Art Museum. The Forward is an official media sponsor for the show, which will travel in April 2011 to Toronto’s Koffler Centre for the Arts, and which features such prominent artists as Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Sarah Glidden, Miriam Katin and Ilana Zeffren.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Alon Raab, American Splendor, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Books, Cleveland, Comic Books, Comics, David Letterman, Drawn and Quarterly, Graphic Details, Graphic Novels, Harvey Pekar, Ilana Zeffren, Late Night, Lee Walzer, Maus, Meir Ariel, Mirian Katin, Ohio, Our Cancer Year, Ranen Omer-Sherman, Samantha Baskind, Sarah Glidden, The Beats, We are On Our Own




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