October Books 16) In The Shadow Of No Towers

16) In The Shadow Of No Towers, by Art Spiegelman

This is the second book about 9-11 that I’ve read in a month, the first being the famous Commission Report. The two are ever so slightly different. The Commission Report is hundreds of pages of dense research, whereas this is ten huge pages of graphics explaining the reaction of one resident of Lower Manhattan.

Spiegelman and his wife rushed to their daughter’s school beside the World Trade Center as soon as they realised what was happening; while they were inside looking for her the first tower collapsed; on their way out, the second tower fell too.

We turn to see the bones of the tower glow and shimmy in the sky. Ever-so-slowly it cascades into itself.

The image of the glowing tower, about to fall, illuminates the entire work. But he also expresses a deep hostility to the entire American political system, President Bush in particular, for (as he sees it) using the excuse of the attacks to pursue business as usual.

Our hero is trapped reliving the traumas of Sept 11, 2001…
Unbeknownst to him, brigands suffering from war fever have since hijacked those tragic events…

Yet at the same time he maintains a certain ability to question his own reactions (which will be familiar to anyone else who’s read his Maus) and even pokes fun at his own propensity to read up on conspiracy theories. He doesn’t come to a firm conclusion, but that goes for most of us.

The 9-11 material is followed by an interesting if not especially related brief history of comics in New York, with a few classic scenes from the likes of Little Nemo In Slumberland which Spiegelman links into the overall theme. The inside front and back cover carry the September 11 1901 headlines from the New York World, also a time of (generally forgotten) national trauma, as President William McKinley, shot a few days before in upstate New York, was gradually deteriorating to his death on September 14. But almost the best bit is Spiegelman’s two-page introduction to the book as a whole, which says much more than I can here about why he did it, and why he did it the way he did.

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