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.
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.
(starred review) In this winsomely haunting graphic novel from Katchor. . . Set in a world tilted about 45 degrees away from reality . . . Rarely have books that made this little sense made so much sense. (Feb.)
--Publisher's WeeklyKatchor . . . does what every great artist does: clarifies things you knew but didn't know you knew, or didn't know how to articulate. Spend some time with his work, and then take a walk.
--NewsweekBen Katchor is the best world-builder in comics today.
--The Comics Journal
". . . a work of great beauty and eccentricity . . . [Katchor] performs that often promised yet rarely accomplished feat of transforming the mundane into the sublime.
--The Globe and Mail
". . . the reader finds herself pulled in a new direction with every page, deep into a city far more interesting than our own . . ." -- The Washington Post
“Wonderful…a pleasantly flimsy repository for an inexhaustible imagination. Open to any page and you'll be surprised anew.” –The Washington Post
“It’s in those spaces where understanding eludes the reader and where meaning nonetheless makes itself felt, that Katchor’s signature poetry lies.” –Publishers Weekly Comics Weekly
“Defies narrative convention…creatively charged.” –Kirkus
“Winsomely haunting…rarely have books that made this little sense made so much sense.” –Publishers Weekly
, starred review “
Gloriously eccentric…the reader is befuddled, though in the most enjoyable manner.” –Booklist
, starred review
“Artist and storyteller Katchor has achieved the goal Borges only imagined. Exiting this oneiric, shamanic, yet utterly naturalistic and sensual masterpiece, the reader steps out into a revitalized continuum richer and more exotic than the one he or she inhabited prior to the reading, a realm full of strange, alluring and bewildering lands, populated by oddball folks with odder customs. Never again will our common globe seem like a small, homogenous, boring place…The Cardboard Valise
is worldbuilding on the order of Jan Morris's Hav, Austin Tappan Wright's Islandia, Brian Aldiss's Malacia, and Ursula Le Guin's Orsinia: places that are attached to our world by extradimensional roads, down which only the sharpest and most sensitive of literary guides can lead one. Get your ticket immediately!” –Barnes and Noble Review
“A surreal travelogue…a vast panorama of humane hamburger stands, exquisitely ethereal ethnic restaurants, ancient restroom ruins and wilds tracts of land that fit neatly next to high-rise hotels.” –Brooklyn Daily Eagle
“History, humor, and a generous dose of surrealness combine to make you think you’re walking down the back streets of Oz…Katchor is plainly steeped in the tropes of his craft, but ultimately he is uncategorizable, a man apart.”–Culture Books
“Katchor is the best world-builder in comics today…The Cardboard Valise feels like something you can open up, fall into, and stroll around in. It’s fascinating and funny and endlessly enveloping to look at, but its delights and distortions alike are ultimately a reflection of ourselves.” –The Comics Journal
“Anyone familiar with [Katchor’s] work will recognize his grotesque eccentrics (or maybe his eccentric grotesques), the off-kilter angles and depths of field in every panel, not to mention the banal objects granted strange value and the wonderful prose…There is an exhilaration and freedom here—a license to invent and destroy.” –Tablet Magazine
“Katchor’s work has the unusual distinction of being known…for its startling poetry, dreamily familiar urban landscapes, and revelations about the arcane systems and inner workings of city life…provocative, moving work.” –CriticalMob.com
“Katchor has made an entire world out of his narrow domain, and it’s as rich and vast (and sad and hilarious) a world as any writer or artist working today has concocted.” –Shelfari
“The appearance of a new Katchor collection is always reason to celebrate… Katchor is a true, rare, untarnished New York treasure — the kind of artist who can concoct a fantastical made-up world, but one that ensures you’ll never see the real world in quite the same way again.” –The 6th Floor blog
“His whimsical, mournful metaphysical verbal gags and scratchy visual poems are at once the most conceptual and conversational comics being made, and for my taste the best ever
made…it’s only March, but surely Katchor is the automatic writer-artist of the year.” –ComicCritique Blog
“Katchor's magically whimsical vision is sui generis… a collection of richly imagined, lovingly detailed individual strips. Each is best lingered over one at a time, an invitingly exotic world unto itself.” –Philadelphia Inquirer
“The Cardboard Valise begins in typically batty fashion…memorable.” –The New York Times
“Katchor is the Joseph Mitchell of contemporary comics…He remains the master of the ineffable, an artist who can bring to life ideas and experiences that exist at the sub-atomic level of consciousness. The Cardboard Valise is a worthy addition to Katchor’s already distinguished oeuvre, but it’s also a sign of an accomplished artist deepening and developing his core themes.” –Jeet Heer, The Ceiling Worker
"The creator of the last great American comic strip." -- Michael Chabon
Starred Review. 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.)
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