We are introduced to the title "cardboard valise" of Ben Katchor's new comic book early on. A short, bald, and expressive salesman makes his pitch: "Those are our 56-inch Fitzall "Ahasuerus" valises. Everything but the lock is guaranteed for six weeks—$29.99. They make a matching unisex hope chest. But you understand, these suitcases are not for the summer vacationer or casual tourist. They're made for desperate men, and women, who have to literally "pack it up" and move, either across a hallway or an ocean. Not for you." Our protagonist takes one, a suitcase made of glue, staples, and recycled pulp paper, weighing almost nothing when empty ("Made in the U.S.A. and proud of it!"). And thus begins the surreal travelogue that is The Cardboard Valise, a record of the loosely interwoven journeys of two men through landscapes across America and some lands far away.
I'm new to Katchor's work and at first I thought I just wasn't "getting it" when I couldn't pull out a plot but as longtime Katchor fan Seth writes in his Globe and Mail review of the book, "I'd be hard pressed to tell you what this book is actually about." What can I say? Katchor's got a great way with words and pointed comic timing. The worlds he draws out are uncanny. I'll leave the rest to Seth, who does an excellent job of capturing the nature of Katchor's work: "His books are like fantastic window displays, stacked up pyramids of banalities: shampoo bottles, desk calendars, gummed labels, rubber seat cushions, orthopedic shoes. Trivial on the surface and yet, as we peer in closely at them, we see that there are worlds within worlds– invented spaces where objects recombine to form whole new absurd philosophies or histories, even entire new imaginary cultures." —Seth for the Globe and Mail
Furthermore, we are excited to announce that we will be hosting Ben Katchor at the Librairie D+Q (211 Bernard O.) this month! He will be launching The Cardboard Valise in store on Saturday April 30th at 7 pm.