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Book Review < Back

The Jew of New York

Credits: Written and Illustrated by Ben Katchor
Publisher: Pantheon Books

Commentary

I'm not sure THE JEW OF NEW YORK is the type of book you can simply read. It possesses a sheer scope and depth that defies its one hundred-page length; a studious work that demands scrutiny, dissection and debate. Or, you can do as I did, and just lose yourself in its magical world of visionaries and charlatans, unquestioningly accepting the truth presented before you. But, I guarantee you, no matter how hard you try to the contrary; you'll be studying each panel of this magnificent book for quite sometime to come.

THE JEW OF NEW YORK is a layered work that is loosely centered on the failure of Mordecai Noah to establish the Jewish homeland of Ararat on Grand Island near Buffalo in 1825. This amusing footnote in history is the perfect segue for Ben Katchor to unfold his storied cast of pilgrims, Kabbalists, and businessmen; zany entrepreneurs trying to claim a stake in a New World that doesn't exactly understand (or want) them. It's about the dreams and shortcomings of an immigrant people, cast from a perspective not afraid to dignify and ridicule them with the same brush stroke.

Katchor, who rose to prominence with his Julius Knipl serials, is at the forefront of today's graphic novelists. And THE JEW OF NEW YORK has certainly ensconced itself in the realm of literary comic books, the likes of Spiegelman's Maus and Ware's Jimmy Corrigan; an essential entry in the canon of graphic fiction.

-- Peter Aaron Rose

 
Peter Aaron Rose is a writer, producer and technologist who lives and works in San Francisco, CA. Under the pseudonym "Peter Siegel", he recently authored Killing Demons, a graphic novel available from Engine Press and Platinum Studios.

 


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