The Jew of New York

by Ben Katchor

Book, 1998



Call number




New York : Pantheon Books, c1998.


Follows a diverse group of colorful characters struggling to establish new lives for themselves in the New World in 1830s New York City.

User reviews

LibraryThing member dr_zirk
Given that I am not Jewish, I am left with the feeling that quite a bit of the content of The Jew of New York went straight over my head. That said, I still enjoyed the book, and continue to admire Ben Katchor as one of the most original and uncompromising artists working in the comics medium
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today. His vision of an alternate history of New York is baffling, hilarious, and mesmerizing, and although it is largely a fictional work, it all somehow feels like it really should have been true. The colony of "air bathers" at New Afflatus particularly feels like a missing piece of American history that ought to be recovered and documented, even if it never really happened - it's just too good to leave out of the history books. While not nearly as accessible as Katchor's Julius Knipl volumes, The Jew of New York is nonetheless entirely worthwhile, if only for the joy of lamenting a slice of the American past that is rich enough to warrant a bit of nostalgia, even if none of these events ever really transpired.
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LibraryThing member mpho3
One review I read criticized the book by calling it a "book of ideas." Yes, exactly! And not your run-of-the-mill ideas either. I found it very inventive, original, thought-provoking, and culturally/historically accurate. That's a lot to pull off in less than 100 pages--and pages that are largely
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taken up by drawings. Pictures do say 1,000 words. Another reviewer noted that you have to know something about Jewish stereotypes in the 1820s to understand this book. I'm a black African female living in 21st century America, and I had no difficulty understanding the stereotypes or warped values behind them. Maybe it would be safer to say that you need to have been the victim of some type of stereotype in your lifetime. But I have to think that most people who would even pick up this sort of book, would be literate enough to know that the stereotypes depicted, are exactly that. I even disagree with readers who say that the page layouts were difficult to read. I think if you have ever read sequential art, it's pretty straight-forward. And if you haven't, the process of figuring it out--and it really does become intuitive very quickly--adds to the telling. You *do* find the significance of certain details by kind of puzzling over the images and layout. So I guess if you need hand-holding narratives, then this probably isn't the book for you. But this is the first work by Katchor that I've read, and I am very impressed by his ability to say so much in so few words about capitalism, nature conservancy, race relations, religiosity, sexuality, theatre, etc. and how these things comprise /conflict with "progress" and the belief every age has that it is the epitomy of advanced human development.

I first heard of Katchtor when reading The Narrative Corpse, a story told by 69 artists and edited by [author: Art Spiegelman]. Unsurprisingly, a lot of people who had a negative reaction to that book, had similar comments that the "story," as such, wasn't linear, etc. But again, I feel like those readers really missed the point. If you're not so hung up on context, The Narrative Corpse is another that you might enjoy, though the two books couldn't be more dissimilar.
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LibraryThing member kivarson
Really interesting story of not only Jewish but also Utopian culture in an emerging America of the 1830s.
LibraryThing member OccassionalRead
When you think of the Jew of New York, (the title of a graphic novel by Ben Katchor) who pops to mind, Seinfeld maybe, Woody Allen, Andy Kaufman, or some earlier comedic talent such as Lenny Bruce? I bet you don't picture Shoykhet Nathan Kishon, politician and playwright Mordecai Noah, Moishe
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Ketzelbourd, a babtized beaver trapper, Abel Marah, a slightly sinister importer of phylacteries, or button merchant Isaac Azaraelor, just to name a few of the eccentric characters that populate an alternative New York circa 1825. For a graphic novel, the story is not that easy to follow. Many of the Jews are hard to distinguish from each other, a devise that may in fact be intentional, since the story deals explicitly with anti-Semitism (Marah's physiognomy is the stereotypical beady eyed, hook-nosed Jew). Other themes are a country and people in flux, retaining traditions but also assimilating to this new frontier. It's a strange place and a bit of a trip, but definitely worth taking.
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LibraryThing member PhoenixTerran
Ben Katchor happens to be a cartoonist for the New Yorker, which is probably why most of this book went way over my head. But, that's okay. I enjoyed it, more or less. I had kept running into the title recently and finally had to give in and figure out what everyone was talking about. (Which I
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never really did, but that's besides the point.)

The book is a cartoon. Not a comic, not really a graphic novel either, but a cartoon. It starts out with about five (or more) different story lines that merge into one at the end. Or maybe they were the same from the beginning, I don't know.

It's a very interesting read... that's really all I can say about it.

Experiments in Reading
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0375401040 / 9780375401046
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