On reading a book…
§ Read the preface, looking for statement of major purpose, perspective, and themes.
§ Then read the entire book thoroughly. It will make more sense if you have a preview of major themes and ideas.
§ After each chapter, review the main themes and ideas in that chapter and jot down these points.
§ Imagine, as you read the book, that you are having a discussion with the author. Ask questions of the author and see if you are satisfied with the answers in the book.
On writing the review…
Keep in mind…
§ One of the primary criteria by which any written paper is evaluated is its clarity and conciseness of communication. Edit and proofread your paper carefully. It is most unlikely that a "first draft" effort will satisfy this criterion.
§ Define clearly any key terms used by the author of the book.
§ Provide sufficient examples and evidence to support your conclusions and generalizations.
§ The review essay should be approximately ten typewritten pages in length.
§ All review essays must be typed and double-spaced in a standard font (preferably 12 cpi), with a 1-inch margin on all sides.
§ Examples of book reviews and review essays can be found in various historical journals or by consulting the Book Review Digest or Current Book Review Citations. Also, there are numerous websites that are devoted exclusively to the works of Art Spiegelman and Eli Wiesel. These "sample" reviews and websites are to be used only for general guidance; they are not to be employed as a source for specific ideas to be included in your review.
§ Minimize the use of direct quotations from the book being reviewed. If you must quote the author directly be sure that the quotation is placed in quotation marks and that you indicate the page on which the quotation is found.
§ This is a book review essay, not a book report. Do not simply summarize the books on a chapter-by-chapter basis.
You might consider…
§ What was life in Auschwitz like? What was the worst thing about it?
§ How was life in Auschwitz organized? Can you describe a social order or hierarchy?
§ What are the Germans at Auschwitz like? What motivated them?
§ What is the psychological impact of life in the camp?
§ In light of Night and This Way for the Gas..., what does Maus do that pure text narratives cannot? In what ways do Spiegelman's crude drawings help us visualize things that words alone might be unable to portray?
§ One of the problems inherent in representing human beings as cats and mice is that animals have a narrower range of facial expression. Are Spiegelman's animals as emotionally expressive as human characters might be? If so, what means does the cartoonist use to endow his mice and cats with "human" characteristics?
§ Maus contains several moments of comedy. Most of these take place during the exchanges between Artie, Vladek, and Mala. Can you identify similar humor within Borowski's or Wiesel’s work? What is the effect of this humor? Was it inaccurate or "wrong" of Borowski, Spiegelman or Wiesel to have included such episodes within their respective tales?
§ Most art and literature about the Holocaust is governed by certain unspoken rules. Among these are the notions that the Holocaust must be portrayed as an utterly unique event; that it must be depicted with scrupulous accuracy, and with the utmost seriousness, so as not to obscure its enormity or dishonor its dead. In what way does Maus, Night, and This Way for the Gas obey, violate, or disprove these "rules"?