Art Spiegelman to receive honorary National Book Award

Sep 8, 2022, 7:56 PM | Updated: Sep 9, 2022, 9:05 am
This undated image shows cartoonist Art Spiegelman, who will receive an honorary National Book Awar...

This undated image shows cartoonist Art Spiegelman, who will receive an honorary National Book Award this fall. He will be the first cartoonist to win the Distinguished Contributions to American Letters medal from the National Book Foundation, which previously has awarded Toni Morrison, Philip Roth and Robert Caro. (Nadja Spiegelman via AP)

(Nadja Spiegelman via AP)

NEW YORK (AP) — This fall, Art Spiegelman will receive an honorary National Book Award for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He feels honored, and a little worried.

The unexpected pleasure of being cited by the National Book Foundation comes months after the jarring saga of his Pulitzer Prize-winning “Maus” being withdrawn by a Tennessee school board, which found Spiegelman’s graphic novel about the Holocaust inappropriate for the district’s curriculum. Sales for “Maus” and other Spiegelman books surged, but the attention distracted him from other priorities.

“My work schedule just got totally smashed to smithereens,” he said during a recent telephone interview. “I was happy to crawl back into my hideout.”

Now, the 74-year-old Spiegelman anticipates being back out in the world, an admittedly enviable burden that will require him to set aside time and consider his decades-long legacy, one profound and wide-ranging. His influence extends from “Maus,” winner of a special citation from Pulitzer judges in 1992, to his 1970s work in underground comics to his famed New Yorker covers, notably the darkened silhouettes of the Twin Towers that ran two weeks after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“Art Spiegelman has captured the world’s imagination through the comics medium,” David Steinberger, chair of the National Book Foundation’s board of directors, said in a statement released Friday. “His masterful graphic novels tackle and illuminate topics from the Holocaust to the aftermath of 9/11, alongside the personal intimacy of the people, events, and comics that shaped him as an artist. Spiegelman’s groundbreaking work has shown us the limitless possibilities for comics as a literary arts form.”

Born in Stockholm, Spiegelman was a toddler when his family emigrated to the U.S., in the early 1950s. He is descended from Polish Jews and lost dozens of relatives — including his brother Rysio — during the Holocaust, a tragic history which he drew upon for “Maus.” His career as a cartoonist dates back to his teens, when he was contributing art to Smudge and other fanzines and was producing his own publication, “Blasé.”

Spiegelman’s career is, in part, a story of taking an art form associated with kids and reshaping it for adults, what he calls “investigating the language and nature of comics.” He is the first cartoonist to win the DCAL medal from the National Book Foundation, which previously has awarded Toni Morrison, Philip Roth and Robert Caro among others.

“It’s very different from what was happening back in the ’70s, where being a cartoonist essentially meant — unless you were Charles Schulz — that you weren’t in the big leagues of success. It was more like being a tattoo artist,” Spiegelman says.

“But the world is changing. There has been a cultural shift that has made it less pejorative to make comics. You had a moment in the 1950s when comics bannings were happening across America. Comic books were seen as dangerous, and you had this struggle over what kids should be allowed to see. There was a ratings system (the Comics Code) and a lot of it was nonsense. But the genie is long out of the bottle.”

Neil Gaiman will introduce Spiegelman at the Nov. 16 ceremony, presented by the Book Foundation. The American Library Association’s executive director, Tracie D. Hall, will receive an award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community, and winners will be announced in five competitive categories, from fiction to young people’s literature.

In a recent telephone interview, Gaiman said Spiegelman had made an enduring impact on him. He remembered seeing some of Spiegelman’s “Maus” images some 40 years ago and relating them to his own experiences as a relative of Jewish Holocaust survivors.

“It left prints on my soul,” he says of Spiegelman’s work.

They became friends years later, even though Gaiman, who recalls turning down the chance to meet David Bowie and Elvis Costello among others, had an unofficial rule not to meet his heroes. But he said that his admiration and affection for Spiegelman have only deepened, and he was not surprised that Spiegelman had worried that winning the DCAL might disrupt his work schedule.

“That is Art,” he said. “Art, with a capital ‘A,’ is always thinking about art, with a small ‘a.’ He makes things that matter, and I think he knows he makes things that matter, and I think we are ridiculously lucky to have him.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Police say killings of 5 men in California are related

STOCKTON, Calif. (AP) — Rewards totaling $85,000 have been offered for information leading to an arrest in five fatal shootings since July in Stockton, California, that investigators believe are related, police said. After reviewing surveillance footage, detectives have located an unidentified “person of interest” in the killings, Stockton Police Chief Stanley McFadden wrote on the […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Tesla sales bounce back in Q3 but fall short of estimates

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Tesla’s sales rose 35% in the July-September period compared to the second quarter as the company’s huge factory in China got past supply chain issues and pandemic restrictions. The electric vehicle and solar panel company said Sunday it sold 343,830 cars and SUVs in the third quarter compared with 254,695 deliveries […]
1 day ago
Physician Karen Calkins tends to Mona Guibord, 94, as she waits to be evacuated from Pine Island, F...
Associated Press

Florida deaths rise to 47 amid struggle to recover from Ian

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Rescuers evacuated stunned survivors on a large barrier island cut off by Hurricane Ian and Florida’s death toll climbed sharply, as hundreds of thousands of people were still sweltering without power days after the monster storm rampaged from the state’s southwestern coast up to the Carolinas. Florida, with nearly four […]
1 day ago
Women chant slogans during a demonstration to show support for Iranian protesters standing up to th...
Associated Press

French march rallies support for Iranian demonstrators

PARIS (AP) — Crowds of people marched in Paris on Sunday to show their support for Iranian protesters standing up to their leadership over the death of a young woman in police custody. French feminist groups, leading politicians and people of Iranian heritage were among those who joined the gathering at Republique Plaza before marching […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

2 hurt when helicopter crashes in yard of California home

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — A helicopter spun out of control and crashed in the front yard of a home in central California, hurting a pilot and passenger, authorities said. The helicopter clipped the edge of the house and sheared off the top of a palm tree before crashing and coming to rest on its side […]
1 day ago
Gigi Hadid wears a creation for the Givenchy ready-to-wear Spring/Summer 2023 fashion collection pr...
Associated Press

Glitzy Valentino show sees Paris Fashion Week at fever pitch

PARIS (AP) — Valentino’s Paris fashion show on Sunday saw black cars snared for blocks dropping off battalions of celebrities who, amid the commotion, just couldn’t find the entrance. Seated VIP guests were sweatily crammed in together inside the Le Marais’ Carreau du Temple venue, waiting as the show started an hour late. Outside, screaming […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Art Spiegelman to receive honorary National Book Award