The Jew of New Haven

A friend of mine, Michael Wenthe, who's a graduate student at Yale (among other more exceptional and admirable qualities of his) has published a perceptive essay on Ben Katchor's graphic novel The Jew of New York. Katchor gave a talk a few years ago which included a deadpan reading of a list of names of small businesses and economic oddities of the sort that he favors in his regular comic, "Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer":

On a cold Wednesday evening in late January, Ben Katchor stood at a podium before a few dozen people in the Proshansky Auditorium of the City University of New York, and read aloud a few entries from a 1960 edition of the Chicago Yellow Pages. “Artificial Flowers and Plants,” he began, in a somewhat gravelly deadpan. “Ionian, Illinois Trading Corporation, Importers of Polyethylene: Completely Washable Flowers and Foliage; They Look Real, They Smell Real. Lee Schubert Floral Arrangements: Trees, Hedges, Any size, Any shape; Nature's Plant and Floral Beauty Reproduced; Free Estimates.

“Coin Changing Devices," he continued. "Meyer and Wenthe Incorporated: Official Money Changers; Multiple Tubes; Any Throw Arrangements; Slug Rejecters.”

That's right, Meyer and Wenthe Incorporated. As Mike said in an e-mail:

Well, I'm the man to explain that! I have a freakin' Meyer and Wenthe ruler in my art table! For I am a lineal descendant of Gustav A. J. Meyer and Herman Wenthe, proprietors of said store!

I feel strangely proud . . .

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