Thursday, October 23, 2008

Art Spiegelman at the Bagdad Theater (10-09-08)

Despite a lack of proper lighting in the Bagdad’s auditorium which resulted in only his silhouette showing in the dark space, Art Spiegelman, author of "Maus" graphic novel, gave a great and very interesting presentation about the evolution of the comic genre and its influence on his early life, illustrated by many images from his new book.
However, the book signing session afterward soured my positive initial impression of the author and of the event. Totally jazzed up by the presentation and pleased with myself for getting my 15-year-old to attend, as people were still filing out of the auditorium, I marched straight to the Powell’s table in the lobby and, without a second thought to such matters as whether I could even afford it, bought a copy of the new book, telling myself it was a bargain, on sale at the event for $19.95 rather than the regular $27 retail price. But that was to be the end of my elation.
While waiting in line for the book signing to start, daughter J. told me how enthusiastic she was at the prospect of meeting the quasi-legendary author of “Maus”; she was hoping to get his autograph in her notebook. Sometime around then, one of the Powell's Books employees managing the event announced in a loud voice that "Mr. Spiegelman" would ONLY dedicate the new book. I was disappointed to then realize that we wouldn’t even get an autograph in our well-worn copy of “Maus.”
I asked the Powell’s guy-in-charge if I could bypass the autograph in the new book I’d bought, and which was pre-signed anyway, and get Spiegelman's signature in my sketchbook instead? The Powell's guy said that he wouldn't even entertain, let alone pass on, any request. I could tell J. was disappointed. Not only had we paid $5 a person to get in the Bagdad Theater, but it now looked like, to even get an audience, one had to have a new book to present, a book which was looking less desirable by the minute. I started having regrets for making a foolish purchase.
As always lacking any sense in these situations, rather than return the book right then, I stayed on, waiting in line, like a dummy. There was something very strange about the set-up: the Master sitting at a table midway up on a level part of the ramp to the second floor of the Bagdad and we minions, waiting in line at the bottom of the ramp, until a Powell’s employee motioned for people to walk up the ramp, one by one.
I showed Spiegelman the sketches in my sketchbook, but not wanting to get a refusal, I didn't even bother asking for his signature. He was a short, harried-looking bearded man with huge thick glasses; he looked fragile and nervous at the same time, like a gruff post office worker or a stamp collector, or someone who stays indoors all the time. As Spiegelman hurriedly scribbled my name in the new book, I realized that, gosh darn it, I now couldn't even return the book for a refund anymore. Our one-minute meeting over, J. and I both walked out of the Bagdad, totally disappointed and already jaded about the experience.
And as for the book: spare the expense; it's very thin, even skimpy, filled with a lot of Robert Crumb wanna-be stuff from the 70s, and the essay at the end is equally disappointing. Looks like I’m going to post it on eBay.