Aaron and Ahmed

At the Barnes & Noble Review, Greil Marcus on Aaron and Ahmed, a 9/11 novel/comic by novelist Jay Cantor and James Romberer:

From a vantage point in the room with Aaron, but ten feet farther from the small TV monitor, suspended hospital-style near the ceiling, in the comic book you first see a second, tiny plane nearing a second, tiny tower. One patient holds his hand over his mouth, others are oblivious, Aaron’s mouth is open in a silent scream as his body jerks. Then you are inches from the TV, everything is bigger, and in two confusing overlapping images, with blue sky, grey building, white plane, and yellow explosions, the plane seems to go straight through two towers at once. A panel shows Aaron holding his cell phone to his ear, his blue eyes crying blue tears as the scream in his mouth still won’t leave it; a small cut-in, easy to miss in the visual noise of the page, shows a red Carol in a green plane as she clutches her phone to her ear, and then, in a pinkish red, even though your perspective is from the foreground of the action, where the building is closer than the plane, the plane smashing into the tower appears at least twice as big as the tower itself. That is the second, right-hand page of a two-page spread. You think you’ve seen what happens.

You turn the page and you realize you have seen nothing. Even if, in your own real life, you saw what happened, you didn’t, not as writer Jay Cantor, illustrator James Romberger, and here especially colorist José Villarrubia, make it happen. Faced by a right page where the dominant color across seven small panels is a blindingly bright yellow, a left page, its image pushing past the spine of the book onto the first inch of the right, shows what is now the enormous, unstoppable, hell-fire red plane entering a far bigger but defenseless building in an image that is at once inescapably pornographic and at the same time nothing more, and absolutely nothing less, than the historical event it depicts. And now you do see what it depicts in its smallest details and all at once.

All the rest of Aaron and Ahmed has to do is get out from under this sequence and live up to it: a frightening challenge . . .

Recent Posts

Criticism Isn't Free

CR is dedicated to thoughtful, in-depth criticism without regard to what's commercially appealing. It takes tens of hours each month to provide this. Please help make this sort of writing sustainable, either with a subscription or a one-time donation. Thank you!

You could also purchase one of my acclaimed ebooks.

Got Something To Say:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



The Surrender is Veronica Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning how she embraced her true gender.


Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

Shop though these links = Support this site

Copyright © 2018. Powered by WordPress & Romangie Theme.