Long before Art Spiegelman’s “Maus,” artists were using comics to describe the horrors of the Holocaust. But was that kosher?
Delmore Schwartz was a poet first and foremost, and an important one, but his short stories—a valuable selection of which are collected in In Dreams Begin Responsibilities and Other Stories—aren’t too shabby themselves. Concerned for the most part with sensitive young men at odds with their families, these pieces often hark back to the 1930s, to the Great Depression as it was experienced in New York City, and to the philosophical struggle between left-wing ideologies and the desire to earn a solid living that characterized Jewish communities of that era. That conflict has long been more or less resolved, but in Schwartz’s telling, it retains a kind of freshness and poignant humor: in a representative moment, one of Schwartz’s young intellectuals introduces his mother to a brilliant scholar and tells her, “You have just seen a genius”; without missing a beat, she answers him, “How much money does he make?”