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5.0 out of 5 stars A world that never existed, or did it or should it have?
Ben Katchor's magical, sketchily precise illustrations lead us through a grey other world where people face problems none of us will ever know. Or fathom. But who cares! Every step of the way is uniquely Katchor's, grounded in a strange logic that seems to make perfectly good sense... at least to his characters. A wealth of invention infuses every page, conjuring...
Published on Aug. 26 1999

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2.0 out of 5 stars Everybody except me either loves or hates this book
I'm a big fan of Julius Knipl, so I looked forward very much to _The Jew of New York_. When I saw that all the Amazon.com reviews of it were either adoring or vituperative, I knew I had to buy it right away. Why had that happened?
Well, now I know. This is a book with prerequisites, and if you don't have 'em, you're going to find the book very difficult. You...
Published on March 10 1999


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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting look at Young America's Values (not unlike Y2K+), Jan. 27 2004
By 
Scaliwag (San Francisco) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Jew of New York (Paperback)
Well, first of all, I have to say I'm really surprised by the people who don't like this book. Certainly I don't expect it to be universally loved, but I really disagree with the reasons I've read below. For example, one reviewer criticized it by calling it a "book of ideas." Yes, exactly! And not your run-of-the-mill ideas either. I found it very inventive, original, thought-provoking, and culturally/historically accurate. That's a lot to pull off in less than 100 pages--pages that are largely taken up by drawings. Pictures do say 1,000 words. Second, I completely disagree with the reviewer who noted that you have to know something about Jewish stereotypes. I'm a black African female living in 21st century America, and I had no difficulty understanding the stereotypes or warped values behind them. Maybe it would be safer to say that you need to understand or have been exposed to some type of stereotype in your lifetime. But I have to think that most people who would even pick up this sort of book, would be literate enough to know that the stereotypes depicted, are exactly that. I even disagree that the page layouts were difficult to read. I think if you have ever read sequential art, it's pretty straight-forward. And if you haven't, the process of figuring it out--and it really does become intuitive very quickly--adds to the telling. You *do* find the significance of certain details by kind of puzzling over the images and layout. So I guess if you need hand-holding narratives, then this probably isn't the book for you. But this is the first work by Katchor that I've read, and I am very impressed by his ability to say so much in so few words about capitalism, nature conservancy, race relations, religiosity, sexuality, theatre, etc. and how these things comprise /conflict with "progress" and the belief every age has that it is the epitomy of advanced human development.
I first heard of Katchtor when reading The Narrative Corpse, a story told by 69 artists and edited by Art Spiegelman. Unsurprisingly, a lot of people who had a negative reaction to it, had similar comments as can be found here. That the "story," as such, wasn't linear, etc. But again, I feel like those readers really missed the point. Anyway, I'll save that review for that book, but if you're not so hung up on context, that one is that you might enjoy as well, though the two books couldn't be more dissimilar.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A world that never existed, or did it or should it have?, Aug. 26 1999
By A Customer
Ben Katchor's magical, sketchily precise illustrations lead us through a grey other world where people face problems none of us will ever know. Or fathom. But who cares! Every step of the way is uniquely Katchor's, grounded in a strange logic that seems to make perfectly good sense... at least to his characters. A wealth of invention infuses every page, conjuring exotic maladies, bizarre business enterprises and wierd obsessions.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Everybody except me either loves or hates this book, March 10 1999
By A Customer
I'm a big fan of Julius Knipl, so I looked forward very much to _The Jew of New York_. When I saw that all the Amazon.com reviews of it were either adoring or vituperative, I knew I had to buy it right away. Why had that happened?
Well, now I know. This is a book with prerequisites, and if you don't have 'em, you're going to find the book very difficult. You need to know something about Jewish life in America, particularly the panoply of stereotypes to which they've been subjected (one that gets a lot of play in the book, the idea that Jews somehow smell bad, is not quite so current as it once was). And it helps to know something about the 19th century American brand of crackpot people and crackpot groups.
Finally, you need to know how to read Ben Katchor. If you expect a linear read you'll be frustrated. Each panel needs to be scrutinized carefully, and pages will pass before you catch the significance of certain details. You'll need to learn to like that centered panel that one reviewer hated so much...it's used for reasons, sometimes esthetic, sometimes dramatic.
In the end, I was disappointed in _The Jew of New York_ because I'd hoped for a book first about people and feelings rather than about ideas. The author's aim (my informed guess here) is to show how the majority can simultaneously fetishize minorities and hold them in contempt, certainly a notion with relevance to 1999. But I wish he could have told me about that with more emotion; instead, we get a range of exceedingly eccentric characters, whose hearts we don't really get into.
Anyway, I don't regret my purchase, but if I weren't a Katchor fan, I might.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Waiter! A bowl of turtle soup..., Feb. 27 1999
By A Customer
This book is terrible. First the story. It weaves several different story lines together. A production of a play 'The Jew of New York' by a questionable director (guess what happens to him in the end), a plan to carbonate Lake Erie, and a guy reading 'Lost Tribe' pamphlets in a rubber suit. There's a button importer and an Indian who speaks Yiddish. Sounds inventive. Sounds squirrelly enough for a graphic novel. But the author, caught up in his own casting brillance, forgets to make the characters say and do inventive and brilliant things. Instead they plod. In the beginning you do find yourself wondering if the plots are historical, but by the end you're just screaming to have the book done with. The art? Every character looks like they were morphed out of one base character. It's impossible to tell them apart. Also you should have a good magnifying glass because the panels are too small. It would have been nice if the publisher would have included one. There is also this repetitive center panel that appears every six or seven pages. It distracts and is annoying. The author should have known this. I think the actor Maynard Daizy (a character in the novel) sums it up the best as he discusses the up and coming play with the scenic director Samson Gergel..."The dialogue itself is devoid of humor. Waiter! A bowl of turtle soup..." I couldn't have said it better myself.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Magical and mesmerizing, Feb. 20 1999
By A Customer
What an amazing book. I found myself torn whether to linger over particular panels or rush on to find out what happened next. Katchor clearly inhabited the archive for a long time before putting this together, and he really captures the beauty, strangeness, and confusion of Jewish life in the early republic. Complex and funny storyline, often surpisingly moving. And although the drawing style is a bit crude, the design is always subtle -- the overall effect only adds to the weirdness. Just brilliant, brilliant work.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Katchor strikes again! A masterpiece!, Feb. 18 1999
By A Customer
Katchor seems to define his own idiom. While other reviews have focused on the "graphic novel", "The Jew of New York" goes far beyond this genre, and offers a unique dream-like perspective of Katchor's own strange world and masterful character portrayals.
Each Character is in fact developed brilliantly, and the whole complex story, from its Hebrew speaking Indian, to its gastrically obsessed Kabbalist, all form threads that seem to come together into a single and perfect ending.
This book is not only a pleasure to read and reread, but it's a pleasure to get lost in; to wander with the characters through an imaginary old New York, and see thier lives, schemes, and very human reactions, their triumphs and their pitfalls. I have bought two copies for friends already!
And, to anyone who doesn't know about castoruem, it's a must have book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece!, Feb. 4 1999
By A Customer
This book is one of the greatest graphic novels ever made! A must read! As good as Maus and Ghost World! Sure to be the Best Book of 1999!
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1.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't Live Up To The Reviews, Feb. 1 1999
By A Customer
From the reviews and supposed reputation of Katchor I was expecting a thunderous resurgence of the graphic novel. It seems a shame that the glowing reviews it has garnered in no way reflect the sloppiness of the story or artwork. As a artform the graphic novel has been richly exploited in the fantasy world of comics. However as a mainstream novel method it has been largely ignored. But if employed with skill, as evidenced from Japanese authors, it can be a compelling format.
However this book falls far short of that mark. The story is stock and uninteresting, and the characters and ending are sadly predictable.
The only redeeming feature of the book is its binding. It is unfortunate, though, that every page the covers hold in place, lacks soul, skill, and imagination.
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The Jew of New York
The Jew of New York by Ben Katchor (Paperback - Dec 26 2000)
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