The next to last Martel pick for our Prime Minister to read, while hardly what I would consider short, is a wonderful classic, one which I've read more than once! He chose To Kill a Mockingbird, the first book I ever stayed up all night reading. I remember looking up at the end and seeing the sunrise - an amazing memory which is forever tied in to my experience of the book.
With this pick I'm caught up, finally, with his reading list. The last two choices were a play, Strindberg's Miss Julie and a graphic novel, Art Spiegelman's Maus. Both are genres I rarely read, so it was a stretch for me. And perhaps that explains a few of my difficulties. I found Miss Julie an unpleasant and annoying read. In the essays I've read on it, it seems to be important for its stylistic innovations, and its approach to the class structures in Sweden at the time. I just found it irritating, especially the conclusion that the only way out of disgrace for Julie is suicide. I know that she is supposed to represent the downfall of aristocratic excess and self-absorption, but I disliked the 'common' character of Jean so much that I would prefer the aristos to win out in this case! Knowing also that Strindberg was a notorious misogynist makes it difficult to read this only symbolically. I didn't enjoy this one but am interested enough to look into the critical work on it a little more.
As for Maus, I always knew this was a classic of its genre, but the only graphic novels I've read previously are Chester Brown's Louis Riel and Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis. This is not an area I read much in. I was really impressed by Maus. It takes the always difficult subject of the Holocaust and presents it in an original and honest manner. The character of his father is drawn without sentiment or easy clichés and the story is the more moving for it. Showing his own difficulties approaching the subject, as well as his own prickly relationship with his father, help the story along. I have to agree with the Pulitzer committee, who gave him a special award in 1992; this is an original and outstandingly successful presentation of a very problematic subject. I am very glad I finally read it.