Mar­ket Day

James Sturm
  • Review
By – September 8, 2011

Halfway through Mar­ket Day, Mendle­man, a stooped rug-weaver, laments the dis­ap­pear­ance of a reli­able buy­er and shop­keep­er, Albert Fin­kler, and the long­ing it has bred: His absence has only made him more present.” 

The same may be said of James Sturm’s lat­est, a shtetl med­i­ta­tion on spurned artistry and gen­er­al gloom, which leaves much to the imag­i­na­tion and the read­er rich­er for it. 

The sto­ry itself is scant. Unlike Sturm’s best-known graph­ic nov­el, The Golem’s Mighty Swing, it doesn’t have the ring of pseu­do-his­toric­i­ty. This is tone-poet­ry against a back­drop of hunched ped­dlers and heilige yid­den, and appre­ci­a­tion of the thing itself requires a cer­tain dis­tance. I liked it more hours after read­ing it, priz­ing its sim­plic­i­ty and rough grace. In Mendleman’s frus­trat­ed cre­ativ­i­ty, it’s hard not to see par­al­lels to that of the worka­day writer/​creator in an era of com­mer­cial mar­gin­al­iza­tion. Visu­al­ly, it jibes. A vet­er­an illus­tra­tor and graph­ic nov­el­ist, Sturm’s inky strokes call to mind some cross between Georges Pros­per Remi’s crisp Tintin” lines and the works of East­ern Euro­pean mas­ters of gloom like Lat­vian artist Jek­abs Kazaks, all beneath mud­dy skies, thread­bare branch­es, and impon­der­able atmos­pher­ic weight. Fam­i­ly Cir­cus” it ain’t.

There’s a lit­tle Chris Ware here, too: social iso­la­tion and dis­il­lu­sion­ment, though the style isn’t as spare or ele­gant. Scruffi­er, dirt­i­er— and more suit­ed for this tale of the shtetl. Per­fect for a sto­ry where so much spo­ken is left unseen, and long­ing is as much a char­ac­ter as any­one with a face on the page.

Max Green­berg is a writer, artist, and non-prof­it com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­fes­sion­al. He works for the Nation­al Wildlife Federation.

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