"Maus" was originally published in two parts, the first in 1986 and the second in 1991; it won a special Pulitzer Prize in 1992, the first comic to be so honored. Still, for the last two decades, Spiegelman has kept doubling back, reconsidering the project, drawing its mouse-like protagonist into nearly everything.
"I'm blessed and cursed by this thing I made that obviously looms large for me and for others," he observes on a sunny October morning in Beverly Hills, eyes blinking behind wire-frame glasses as he smokes on the balcony of his room in the Four Seasons Hotel. "But the result is that I can't do this thing that seems quite easy but that I just can't do, which is: 'That's that, and now I'm working on a new thing, and it's a whole other thing.' I just can't get out of its gravitational field."
Spiegelman's latest book is a case in point: "MetaMaus" (Pantheon: 302 pp., $35), a lavish deconstruction of his magnum opus, positioned as a 25th-anniversary commemoration, although that's just a convenient peg. More apropos is his sense of reckoning with the legacy of "Maus." "For the most part," Spiegelman says, "I've been trying to outrun it, and it hasn't worked very well. So this seemed like: OK, if you can't outrun it, just stare the damned beast down."