Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Cardboard Valise

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of The Cardboard Valise (Pantheon, 2011).

Oh, I've got a lot of time for Ben Katchor, and it's always very well rewarded. I haven't enjoyed a comic as much as I did his latest work, The Cardboard Valise, in ages.

In his previous books, Katchor has created a sort of skewed version of New York City and its environs. This time out, he really broadens his view in a story - really a series of interconnected strips that can be read in any order - that links three travelers from a big city to the island nation of Outer Canthus.

I found myself eventually reading just a few pages a day and, when finished, I put it back on the bottom of my pile for a reread as soon as it's feasible. It's a book where the odd angles at which Katchor stages the action work in tandem with the strange revelations of the text. Everything is revealed in such a natural way that readers might have to stop and question whether something mentioned in passing is a real occupation or restaurant, or another of Katchor's only-a-little implausible fictions. It's an amazing example of world-building, and the sort of place I could easily lose myself. Highly recommended.

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