When I met for a chat with Ben Katchor last week it had been about a decade since we last spoke and almost that amount of time since I paid attention to his work. His newest opus, The Cardboard Valise (Pantheon) is an assemblage of a weekly “cartoon strip” augmented by Katchor to provide continuity and coherence
One reason I haven’t read any thing by Katchor, who Michael Chabon calls “The creator of the last great American comic strip”, in the past ten years is that The Cardboard Valise is his only book published in that time frame. Not that he has been idle— the MacArthur fellow keeps busy with his weekly and monthly strips, as well as mounting theatrical productions and teaching at Parsons.
Here’s the publishers synopsis:
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.
If you are not aware of this brilliant and original storyteller, here’s a small sampling, the Bread Crumb Collector:
By the way, my conversation with Ben Katchor should be available in the next month so I’ll save my commentary untill then —stay tuned.