Be a Nose by Art Spiegelman

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Be a Nose
By Art Spiegelman
McSweeney’s

artspiegelmanbeanose1During an interview last year, I asked Art Spiegelman, “how much do you work?” It was, I suppose, a slightly (just slightly) more tactful way of saying, “what do you do all day?” Tact or no, it surely wasn’t the first time the artist had been asked the question.

All of the standard (and largely deserved) genius talk aside, Spiegelman has become, perhaps, somewhat infamous for a sporadic approach toward book releases. Maus’s two volumes were released in 1986 and 1991, respectively. Save for his work for the New Yorker and a kid’s book in 1997, that was the last any of us heard from the artist until 2004’s In the Shadow of No Towers.

Spiegelman answered my question honestly, if not especially satisfactory. “I’m writing things,” he explained. “I’m taking notes. Sometimes they coalesce, sometimes they don’t and then there’s just a lot of grunt work involved in every project.” If the preface to Be a Nose is to be believed, the more accurate answer is, “turning scraps into art.” Envelopes and matchbooks and phone books. The artist’s explanation in this case, however, is not an attempt to justify exactly how he whiles away his waking hours, but rather to explain why he doesn’t keep sketchbooks.
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