A Maus in My House—Or, How To Teach Your Kids About the Holocaust
My Art Spiegelman print was suddenly worth thousands of dollars. But perhaps it was worth more hanging on my son’s wall.
My son turned out to be a very hard sell. “I like the way he draws, but I don’t like what he draws about,” he said. This either meant he had a far more sophisticated understanding than I had guessed or just was not ready at all. I told him we were going.
When we arrived, I handed him off to my wife. Much later I asked whether they had walked the Maus walls. “Oh, yes,” she said. “We had a discussion about it.” How did that go? “Oh, he had a few small questions, but that was pretty much it.”
Meanwhile I made my own way through. I found myself drawn to a large sheet featuring two gigantic prone figures, one with a moneybag for a head and the other with a laurel wreath and a short skirt, surrounded by classic comic characters from Krazy Kat to Popeye to Dick Tracy, with the legend “The Bastard Offspring of Art and Commerce murder their parents and go off on a Sunday Outing.” So, if I’d sold it, perhaps Art would have understood. I was also somewhat shocked to see that the print we had at home was not a one-off, but a large color rendition of a full-page illustration (“Mouse Holes”) in Maus. It was static because it was a chapter frontispiece. I thought, “That would knock the price up.”
Indeed. My last stop was at the museum gift shop. There they were selling Spiegelman screen prints. Including one from my run. I asked a saleswoman how much they cost. She pointed to mine. “Well, that one is $4,700.” Correctly assessing my level of disposable income, she added sympathetically, “It’s what his studio agreed was a fair price.”
I cannot really shake the figure from my head. I am happy to say that I didn’t immediately wrest the print from my son’s hands and flog it outside the Jewish Museum. What I did think was that he should have it. And maybe when he goes to college, if he needs some extra money, he can sell it.
The law of scarcity versus the public attention span. The original survivors and refugees are now almost gone. What will their images—in comics or video or any other form—be worth to people in 2020? That’s funny, I thought. I’m dabbling in Maus futures. Then I thought: not so funny. I’m dabbling in Holocaust futures.
Or my son will. Maybe, when the time comes, he’ll decide not to sell. My hope is that whatever the Holocaust may mean by then, he’ll know enough about it to assess its trajectory. For Hanukkah this year, we gave him a copy of the first volume of Maus.
Like this article? Sign up for our Daily Digest to get Tablet Magazine’s new content in your inbox each morning.
Baby boomers and seniors are a growing segment of the community, with specific needs for programming, rituals, and accessibility