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3.5 out of 5 stars8
3.5 out of 5 stars
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 1999
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 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'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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