- Paperback: 108 pages
- Publisher: Pantheon; Reprint edition (Dec 26 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0375700978
- ISBN-13: 978-0375700972
- Product Dimensions: 20.6 x 0.6 x 21.4 cm
- Shipping Weight: 204 g
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #821,030 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Jew of New York Paperback – Dec 26 2000
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"The most poetic, deeply layered artist ever to draw a comic strip."
From the Inside Flap
decai Noah, a New York politician and amateur playwright possessed of a utopian vision, summoned all the lost tribes of Israel to an island near Buffalo in the hope of establishing a Jewish state. His failed plan, a mere footnote in Jewish-American history, is the starting point for Ben Katchor's brilliantly imagined epic that unfolds on the streets of New York a few years later.
A disgraced kosher slaughterer, an importer of religious articles and women's hosiery, a pilgrim peddling soil from the Holy Land, a latter-day Kabbalist, a man with plans to carbonate Lake Erie--these are just some of the characters who move through Katchor's universe, their lives interwoven in a common struggle to settle into the New World even as it erupts into a financial frenzy that could as easily leave them bankrupt as carry them into the future.
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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.
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.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The author did bring up many idiosyncratic and strange moments in American history. But I had little sense of what was tweaked reality and what was pure invention. In small doses that can be quite mysterious, but at some point the author has to give clues as to his intent. I love his Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer. I think Katchor is one of America's most intriguing cartoonists and comic book writers. He just couldn't pull this one off.
Katchor weaves together various stories of Jews involved in entertainment, the preparation of food and drink, the importation of buttons and beaver pelts, and a scheme to found a utopian community of Jews and native Americans, the lost 10 tribes of Israel. Many of these stories are about the purveying of sacred materials to secular consumers. Illusion is as important as money. There is an undercurrent of “lascivious dream[ing]” and voyeurism. The most bizarre character is an obsessed devotee of an aging stage actress, whose pictures he has posted on trees in his private grove, a parody of a religious sanctuary, implying secularization, and eroticization, of religious sacrifice. Another character is an anti-Semitic writer who wishes to put into a popular play (The Jew of New York) his beliefs about Jewish venality. Yet he has a symbiotic relationship with the Jewish people, and says that “without the Judeo-Christian ethos,” his own work would be “cheap burlesque.”
The remote setting is perfect for lending a detached point of view to the events, which Katchor undercuts with both irony and sympathy. The book is far too complex to be characterized as a conservative art form such as satire.
Katchor is very original, historically acute, and wry. The faces he draws are revealing in their frozen-featured shapes and outsized noses and mouths, with intense eyes interestingly contrasting to facial expressions and postures.