In the Shadow of No Towers. As author of Maus, I had very high expectations for this graphic novel that focuses on September 11th. I was not disappointed. Once again, Spiegelman has created a graphic novel that is heartbreaking and poignant while still having aspects of humor. I would not say that his style is humorous but there are elements of dark humor that make the reader chuckle at his irony.
It is in an oversize format in which the book opens vertically like a newspaper. This adds to Spiegelman's design of having each page look like the front page of a newspaper. Half of the graphic novel is formatted in this way while the other half consists of plates from 1903-1921. Though the main story is only told in about twenty pages, it is filled with such passion and insight that it could easily fill an entire 400 page novel.
There is no true "plot" in this graphic novel but instead centers around Spiegelman's own experience on 9/11 and his reflections on the event years later. Clearly, Spiegelman suffers from post-traumatic stress due to the event and the extremely emotional situations that his family was put through. Though the content is heavy, he pokes fun at the government and the onslaught of patriotism that the event caused.
Written between 2002 and 2004, this graphic novel is a reflection on that day and the horrific days that followed. At times, In the Shadow of No Towers feels like Spiegelman’s personal project that he created in order to help with his own neurosis and come to terms with his own experiences. Yet this is not detrimental to the story and at no time does the reader feel as if Spiegelman pities himself. In fact, many of his observations about himself are pretty universal to anyone who lived through that day and the emotional/political whiplash that followed.
Before reading this book, I had not read a single book (fiction or non) that even remotely touched upon 9/11. I felt that it still hangs over us and that it was too soon for any movie or book to be written. It took me a couple of weeks before I was even willing to pick up this book but I really respected Spiegelman's treatment of the Holocaust in Maus and therefore thought that I would give it a try. I am so glad that I did because his perspective and opinions matched my own. I do not know if this book is for everyone because Spiegelman certainly is outspoken about his views. For those who are willing to give it a shot, it has the potential to be extremely therapeutic.