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Good Dad, Bad Dad And Something In Between

by Stacy Saunders
Jun 18, 2009 (All Things Considered)

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Dads are amazing creatures: They transform themselves into various animals to provide transportation for little travelers. They're always up for games like "Let's Look for Bugs Under These Rocks!" and "I'll Be Triceratops and You Be T. Rex." And nobody, but nobody, beats Daddy for daily stories.

So here are three enthralling stories about dads. The fathers in these books run the daddy gamut: the good, the bad and the in-between — because what fun is it to read only about perfect fathers, especially when we know they aren't the only kind?

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

'Maus: A Survivor?s Tale'

Maus: A Survivor's Tale, by Art Spiegelman, paperback, 160 pages

For our in-between dad, let's revisit Vladek Spiegelman, the true-life dad featured in Art Spiegelman's Maus: A Survivor's Tale. Maus is a gripping nonfiction account of the Holocaust written in the form of a comic book. In this book, the Jews are drawn as mice and the Germans as cats. Art Spiegelman blends a comical picture of his frustrating relationship with his father with a terrifying account of life in Auschwitz — as seen through Vladek's eyes. Vladek seems like an annoying, critical and curmudgeonly old man, but then you see how his MacGyver-like resourcefulness helped him survive the horrors of the camps, and you give the man some respect. Vladek turns out to be an amazing man — even though he could be a bit of a noodge as a father.

'The Shining'

The Shining, by Stephen King, paperback, 528 pages

Nor do they get much worse than Jack Torrance, the bad daddy of Stephen King's haunted house novel The Shining. Jack accepts a job most people would run from, serving as winter caretaker to the isolated Overlook Hotel, a haunted old resort with a murderous history. Why does Jack do it? Because he loves his son, Danny. True, he tries to smash the kid's head in, but let's give the guy a break: He was possessed by the hotel. Reading King's novel, the famous image from the book's film adaptation — that of Jack Nicholson's blood-smeared face leering through the splinters of an axe-hacked door — disappears from our mind's eye. Instead, we see a down-on-his-luck average guy who would have been a good father, if not for the malevolence of his own internal demons.

Stacy Saunders is an English teacher and freelance writer. She blogs about her favorite books at 111books.blogspot.com.

'To Kill a Mockingbird'

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, paperback, 336 pages

Our good dad comes from Harper Lee's classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. It is 1935: The Depression is in full swing, Hitler is up to no good and in Maycomb, Ala., Scout and Jem Finch are learning the meaning of bigotry. Their father, a hardworking lawyer named Atticus Finch, is defending an innocent black man accused of raping a white woman. When the children have to endure taunts about their father from classmates, he tells them to walk a mile in the other person's shoes. And every night, he is a comfortable chair for Scout to curl up in for a good read. Brave, wise and cozy — dads don't get any better than Atticus Finch.

Good, bad or in between, fathers help write the stories of our lives. The fathers in these three books will leave you wishing your dad was more like them, or thankful that he wasn't. So this Father's Day, you might want to give your dad a call ... depending on what category he falls into.

Three Books ... is produced and edited by Ellen Silva and Bridget Bentz.

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Art Spiegelman's 'Breakdowns' ()

Art Spiegelman, The Artist As A 'Young %@&*!'

Nov 6, 2008

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In 1986, Art Spiegelman's Maus I: My Father Bleeds History opened up the graphic novel genre to the world. Six years later, its sequel Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began won a Pulitzer Prize. Depicting Nazis as cats and Jews as soulful-eyed mice, these groundbreaking works by a child of Auschwitz survivors more thoroughly explained the Holocaust to the post-baby boom generation than any other piece of literature or art. Tom & Jerry may have helped define our childhood, but Maus helped make us adults.

Few admirers of Spiegelman's plangent, two-part masterpiece realize that the artist got his start in the underground comics movement of the early '70s as a disciple of that fabulously freaky pioneer R. Crumb. Spiegelman's Breakdowns, first published in 1978 and just reissued in a glorious hardcover edition, revisits and restores the lost and mildly X-rated nascent years of a great American artist.

Compiled from seminal and scattered comics shorts that Spiegelman drew in the years 1972 to '77, Breakdowns has the frenetic, searching quality of an artist first discovering his style. The works range from "Nervous Rex, The Malpractice Suit," a satire of the daily comic strip "Rex Morgan, MD," and "Ace Hole, Midget Detective," about a pint-size private eye, to the earliest panels of Maus.

Spiegelman's new introduction, drawn as a comic, is a revelation. He explains how, as a child, he had his soul saved from '50s blandness by the trailblazing lunacy of Mad Magazine. A mentor soon taught him that the anthropomorphic animals of early cartoons were often riffs on the old racist minstrel shows: "Jazz-age Mickey Mouse is just [minstrel singer] Al Jolson with big ears!" Years later, Spiegelman would toy with the idea of drawing "lynched mice" and "Ku Klux Kats" before deciding that "Hitler's notion of Jews as vermin offered a metaphor closer to home."

While not of the same transformative importance as Maus, Breakdowns provides — even from the distance of 30 years — some of the smartest criticism of the comics genre ever rendered, and a preview of what was to come from Spiegelman. For those of us who read and reread Maus as children, scanning the pages of Breakdowns will be a bit like stumbling onto the sketches for a painting by Titian or Raphael, and getting swept away by a force that made us who we are.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

'Maus: A Survivor?s Tale'

Maus: A Survivor's Tale, by Art Spiegelman, paperback, 160 pages

For our in-between dad, let's revisit Vladek Spiegelman, the true-life dad featured in Art Spiegelman's Maus: A Survivor's Tale. Maus is a gripping nonfiction account of the Holocaust written in the form of a comic book. In this book, the Jews are drawn as mice and the Germans as cats. Art Spiegelman blends a comical picture of his frustrating relationship with his father with a terrifying account of life in Auschwitz — as seen through Vladek's eyes. Vladek seems like an annoying, critical and curmudgeonly old man, but then you see how his MacGyver-like resourcefulness helped him survive the horrors of the camps, and you give the man some respect. Vladek turns out to be an amazing man — even though he could be a bit of a noodge as a father.

'The Shining'

The Shining, by Stephen King, paperback, 528 pages

Nor do they get much worse than Jack Torrance, the bad daddy of Stephen King's haunted house novel The Shining. Jack accepts a job most people would run from, serving as winter caretaker to the isolated Overlook Hotel, a haunted old resort with a murderous history. Why does Jack do it? Because he loves his son, Danny. True, he tries to smash the kid's head in, but let's give the guy a break: He was possessed by the hotel. Reading King's novel, the famous image from the book's film adaptation — that of Jack Nicholson's blood-smeared face leering through the splinters of an axe-hacked door — disappears from our mind's eye. Instead, we see a down-on-his-luck average guy who would have been a good father, if not for the malevolence of his own internal demons.

Stacy Saunders is an English teacher and freelance writer. She blogs about her favorite books at 111books.blogspot.com.

'To Kill a Mockingbird'

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, paperback, 336 pages

Our good dad comes from Harper Lee's classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. It is 1935: The Depression is in full swing, Hitler is up to no good and in Maycomb, Ala., Scout and Jem Finch are learning the meaning of bigotry. Their father, a hardworking lawyer named Atticus Finch, is defending an innocent black man accused of raping a white woman. When the children have to endure taunts about their father from classmates, he tells them to walk a mile in the other person's shoes. And every night, he is a comfortable chair for Scout to curl up in for a good read. Brave, wise and cozy — dads don't get any better than Atticus Finch.

Good, bad or in between, fathers help write the stories of our lives. The fathers in these three books will leave you wishing your dad was more like them, or thankful that he wasn't. So this Father's Day, you might want to give your dad a call ... depending on what category he falls into.

Three Books ... is produced and edited by Ellen Silva and Bridget Bentz.

Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*!
By Art Spiegelman
Hardcover, 72 pages
Pantheon
List price: $27.50

Missing some content? Check the source: NPR
Copyright(c) 2014, NPR

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