Julius Knipl: Real Estate Photographer Stories is a collection of Ben Katchor's comics about about middle-class guys in New York City. At first glance each comic (usually 4 or 8 panels) seems to have no point, and the tone tends to remind me of the Jim books (I Made Some Brownies, And They Were Pretty Good, etc.), but Katchor seems to have staked out some pretty bizarre literary territory with these little stories. One of my favorites concerns a man who is nearly poked in the eye with an umbrella on a rainy day. He's telling a companion his story, when a bystander overhears and tells him that many city residents are actually suffering from eye injuries on a day like this. This eye-injury enthusiast takes our man to the hospital, to see him "offer condolences to the families of the injured." Another story concerns a group of volunteers who man phone lines all night, just to take calls from concerned citizens who have heard fire engine or ambulance sirens. Lots of the stories are about businessmen with bizarre, pathetic, or just loopy invention ideas: a suitcase that turns into a wastebasket, a storefront which sells rock candy, but only wholesale... The text is punctuated by hilarious proper names, such as: Blood & Sawdust Brand Cirkus Straws The Ascending Colon, with Horace Bismuth and Vivian Scybala Citric Acid Council Viosh Shirue's Natural Rainwater Cistern Katchor doesn't look down at his characters or approach them with anything similar to condescension. If I am motivated to feel anything at all after reading this, it's a bit more humility and compassion for my fellow man. At times these little stories are laugh-aloud funny, but mostly they just bring a smile and a little chuckle. I am glad I ran across this book. ken32 And yes, these pieces were not created to be consumed en masse. If you find a few amusing or worthwhile, but they get tiresome after a bit, just put the book down, and read a few of them each day, as you would if your daily newspaper carried them.
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