Best New York City flaneur (2008)

Ben Katchor

Newspaper cartoonist Ben Katchor makes it all up, but his ongoing comic strips, which are published these days in the weekly Forward, and his graphic novel The Jew of New York, set in the 1830s, are detailed evocations of a city that no longer exists. (You'd need to go back to Berenice Abbott's WPA photographs to see anything like it.) A walker in the city, Katchor extrapolates a whole landscape of specialty shops, storefronts, signage, and shabby upstairs office suites out of those remnants that remain. (Walter Benjamin would have loved this guy.) There probably wasn't a way to describe certain commercial neighborhoods before Katchor's real estate photographer Julius Knipl began haunting them 18 years ago; now, there's no better term to characterize the time-frozen blocks in the West Twenties in and around the flower district, the back alleys of Downtown Brooklyn, or the area around Fulton and Nassau in Lower Manhattan than Katchor country. See for yourself in The Beauty Supply District (Pantheon Books)


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