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The Cardboard Valiseby Ben Katchor
Synopses & Reviews
Ben Katchor (“The creator of the last great American comic strip.”—Michael Chabon) gives us his first book in more than ten years: the story of the fantastical nation of Outer Canthus and the three people who, in some way or another, inhabit its shores.
Emile Delilah is a young xenophile (lover of foreign nations) so addicted to traveling to the exotic regions of Outer Canthus that the government pays him a monthly stipend just so he can continue his visits. Living in the same tenement as Emile are Boreal Rince, the exiled king of Outer Canthus, and Elijah Salamis, a supranationalist determined to erase the cultural and geographic boundaries that separate the citizens of the Earth. Although they rarely meet, their lives intertwine through the elaborate fictions they construct and inhabit: a vast panorama of humane hamburger stands, exquisitely ethereal ethnic restaurants, ancient restroom ruins, and wild tracts of land that fit neatly next to high-rise hotels. The Cardboard Valise is a graphic novel as travelogue; a canvas of semi-surrealism; and a poetic, whimsical, beguiling work of Ben Katchor’s dazzling imagination.
"In this winsomely haunting graphic novel from Katchor — whose weekly strips have been collected into The Jew of New York and Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer, among others — an overstuffed suitcase becomes a ripe, comic metaphor for modern life. Set in a world tilted about 45 degrees away from reality, Katchor's story follows a number of characters through their quirky obsessions, each of which highlights a uniquely curious take on modernity. A hunt in the 'Saccharine Mountains' turns a BLT into a tongue-in-cheek metaphor ('the lettuce symbolizes the cost of living'), while the citizens of 'Outer Canthus' each undergo a symbolic funeral at the age of 47, after which they are 'allowed to shed the burden of responsibility.' In this slurry of sketchy and gray-tinged surrealism, the titular valise stands out with a certain haunting magic: a cheap and disposable thing (Katchor tracks its construction and sale with a curiously socioeconomic exactitude) that can contain multitudes. Once its contents are unleashed upon the hopelessly modernized island nation of Tensint (Katchor relentlessly skewers affected bourgeois quests for 'authenticity'), things go downhill fast — it's the end of the world writ small. Rarely have books that made this little sense made so much sense. (Feb.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
About the Author
BEN KATCHOR is the author of The Jew of New York; Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer: The Beauty Supply District; and several works of musical theater in collaboration with the composer Mark Mulcahy. He teaches at Parsons The New School for Design and has contributed to The New Yorker, The Forward, and Metropolis. The first cartoonist to receive a MacArthur Fellowship, he is the subject of a documentary titled The Pleasures of Urban Decay. He lives in New York.
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