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The Cardboard Valise

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  178 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
 Ben Katchor (“The creator of the last great American comic strip.”—Michael Chabon) gives us his first book in more than ten years: the story of the fantastical nation of Outer Canthus and the three people who, in some way or another, inhabit its shores.
Emile Delilah is a young xenophile (lover of foreign nations) so addicted to traveling to the exotic regions of Outer Ca
Hardcover, 128 pages
Published March 15th 2011 by Pantheon (first published February 15th 2011)
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Apr 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Although I loved it, this is a really difficult book to describe. Probably in part because it was originally published in short strips and there's not really an overarching narrative, at least one that really matters.

In a bare plot sense, the story starts by focusing on Emile Delilah, an oddball travel addict who makes his way to the Tencint Island to see their world famous bathroom ruins. As the story develops we meet two others who live in the same apartment building as Emile. There's Boreal
Dec 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Despite my great admiration for Ben Katchor's work, it took me a while to really get into his latest, The Cardboard Valise. For most of the book there's little plot or narrative cohesion, but instead a series of typically quirky episodes. The book follows two primary characters in the fictional Fluxion City - Emile Delilah, the long-forlorn son of a corporate executive, and Elijah Salamis, a "supranationalist" idler who forsakes all cultural and national influences in a quest for universal purit ...more
Romulo Schmegley
May 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I really liked Ben Katchor's other books (Jew of New York, Julius Knipl: Real Estate Photographer, Beauty Supply District).

At first the art seems sloppy, but the more you read, the more detail you start to appreciate in the seemingly primitive drawings. Panel by panel he creates a world similar to our own, but skewed to make the familiar details of life seem new and interesting.

Places (Outer Canthus) are named after body parts. Small personality quirks (wearing shorts no matter the weather) bec
Jul 22, 2011 rated it liked it
I think I might be the only person in the world who really loved Katchor's _Jew of New York_ and wishes he'd do something like that again, something more densely plotted and more directly referring to the real world.... I love the Julius Knipl stuff as a concept, but in the execution, I often found it a little tedious. Part of my problem with that series and with this collection is trying to read it all at once, instead of a page or so a week. But the work is collected, and I find it a lot less ...more
Douglas Gorney
Oct 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
More Katchor brilliance in a quasi-narrative package. (And a package with actual handles, no less.)

Emphasis should be placed on quasi here because a lot of reviewers have seemed frustrated that The Cardboard Valise did not meet their expectations as a graphic novel or a cohesive story arc. As a book, I suppose. First, Valise is much more of a collection than it is a continuous story. The Jew Of New York aside, Katchor is a minaturist, with franchises like Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer t
Apr 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics
The rare graphic novel that made me s l o w d o w n when I read it.

There are many mysteries in this book, as well as the mystery of why the processing center decided to assign it to "graphic non-fiction".

I have a low-level migraine so I'm not going to attempt any real exploration of why this was wonderful to me. But I will say that the narration invaded my nap-dreams, and that's always a sign of a good book. The way it is structured, with re-appearing characters but no overarching story, makes
David Schaafsma
I got this out of the library because Adam Hines had said in an interview that one of his influences was Ben Katchor. From the looks of the Goodreads ratings, this is the worst place to start with Katchor, most people dislike this book, which has as its strength and weakness some surrealistic dialogue, which is imaginative and intriguing and funny for a bit but then the joke goes on too long… This idea would have been better in a short story, maybe. I'll read some of his other stuff, though, whi ...more
Aug 05, 2011 rated it did not like it
there's no way... I can't even finish this.

I tried. for days. and weeks. I even renewed the book. I tried so hard because I don't like to abandon reads. this one really kills me though. it makes me want to puke all over the place! it's nonsense but not even fun nonsense.

I mean, maybe it gets better and I'll never know but that's just something I'm willing to live with.
Michael Bucci
Jun 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Probably the weirdest book I have ever read. Graphic novel.
Jul 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Just beautiful. I've always loved Ben Katchor. There is such a warm distance in his drawings and dialogue and a mysticism in his absurdist nostalgia. This doesn't disappoint.
Sep 07, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: comics
One of the strNgest comic books you'll ever read. Can't decide if it has a plot or not.
Michelle MacAleese
Apr 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
I like to read Ben Katchor before bed so I have really cool dreams. This guy is a genius. My favourite graphic novelist and one of my favourite novelists period.
Jan 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Adults
Recommended to Helen by: No-one.
The graphic novel is a dystopian view of the travel/tourist industry - mocks much of commercial/modern life, globalization, religious sects - actually, for an often extremely funny book, it's quite bitter overall.

The book is organized around trips one or two protagonists make to generic/fictitious vacation islands - which gives Katchor an opportunity to invent island worlds of his own. I appreciated this because as a child I also "invented" cultures - complete with maps, languages, "native" cos
Evan Kingston
Apr 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Great collection of strips with Katchor's familiar tone and tropes but about a slightly subject than he's focused on before.

I wouldn't call it a graphic novel, though, as there is only a smattering of plot throughout the book, mostly in the final pages. Though they share common characters, settings, and concerns, most of the pages aren't linked one to the next by events and could probably be read in any order. While this is neccesarry for comic strips, where readers need to be able to be able t
Artur Coelho
Mar 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Ben Katchor é um daqueles autores de banda desenhada relativamente obscuros ao grande público mas fortemente influentes nos criadores mais populares. O seu estilo gráfico rascunhado abre as portas para um mundo interior de urbanismo surreal, onde os detalhes do dia a dia são subvertidos com humor erudito e um onirismo borgesiano. Katchor constrói mundos alternativos levemente desviados da normalidade do mundo real.

Viagens e entrelaçamentos de narrativas são os grandes temas de Cardboard Valise,
May 28, 2011 rated it did not like it
It tried to be clever. it almost made a point about the hollowness of consumerism- BUT- holy f*@%, what a boring turd. You know having a plot and being readable isn't a bad thing. You could throw any of those panels in any order and it would still be the same terrible waste pulp of ink (which what it was trying to refer to in the beginning as maybe a forewarning?). If you don't have anything interesting to say why say anything? Was the point of this to make the cardboard suit case the most inter ...more
Nov 11, 2011 rated it it was ok
While this is definitely not my favorite work by Ben Katchor, it is not without a certain charm. However, even more so than his well-known Julius Knipl character, this meandering set of comic strips concerning Tensint Island and Fluxion City seems to lack much of a unifying force, and the best strips are ultimately weighed down by many strips that are simply strange and (at best) mildly amusing. Katchor remains a genuine original, dedicated to a very individual vision of modern American life, bu ...more
Dec 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
A fascinating, off-kilter work from an artist who is in love with words. Taking place in fictional locales such as 'Fluxion City', New Jersey and the exotic destinations of Tensint Island and Outer Canthus, we follow a couple of characters on and off, such as Emile Delilah and Elijah Salamis. The characters are less important than the reflections on the bizarre practices that take place in these worlds that provide a skewed mirror on our own existence. It perhaps wears out its welcome slightly o ...more
Nov 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Dropping into Ben Katchor's world is a surreal trip. Everything is just on the edge of how it is, a bit off kilter, with a slightly sinister tone. I get disoriented but I am pulled along by the visuals and all the strange verbal surprises. Like "the Institute for Sentimental Studies." Or "the famous restroom ruins." "The Pelagian virtuoso ladle player." A little goes a long way however. Unlike Nemo in Slumberland, in this altered world there isn't any one for me to consistently connect to. It's ...more
Oliver Bateman
Mar 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Katchor's latest work--a long, sprawling story about two eccentrics that offers intriguing snapshots of daily life in various fictional countries--is a notch below his prior efforts but still well worth your time. For all the evident care taken in the creation of this book, it's neither a polished masterpiece like The Jew of New York nor as surreally enchanting a literary universe as the one inhabited by the characters in his Julius Knipl strips.
Mar 25, 2011 rated it it was ok
This was a good book... just not for me and for where I'm at right now. It was hard to push myself through this, because there wasn't a real "story," per se... alot to think about, but not something that really grabbed me right now.
Sep 15, 2011 rated it did not like it
To be perfectly fair, I didn't finish the book. In fact, I couldn't even get through the first five pages. This doesn't mean it is a bad book. It just suggests (I hope) that it wasn't my cup of tea at that moment, perhaps.
Mar 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Funny, sad, satirical look at life. Love what Canthus does to 12 year olds (won't give it away here but not yet available in the western world) "protects them from their own hormonal undoing"

Ryan Mishap
Nov 13, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
Ugly, jagged art doesn't help one figure out the surreal story--like someone was trying desperately to conjure up Vonnegut at his weirdest and only sowing confusion, or, in my case, increasing anger at this big fucking waste of my time.
Jan 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
Dense, packed scrawlings that refract the ordinary into strange fictions. Sometimes self-contained, other times carrying elements across many panels and pages yet always unnervingly disjointed to the detriment of Flux City.
May 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Not quite as good as the other Katchor books I've read, but still pretty great.
Erin Tuzuner
Aug 21, 2012 rated it it was ok
It was engaging initially, but the grey tedium overwhelmed it completely before the end was even near.
Jan 20, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: comics
Gimmicks. I hate 'em.
Mar 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Katchor's work is always a delightful excursion into a strange world of particular lives, peculiar occupations, and strange obsessions.
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Ben Katchor (born 1951 in Brooklyn, NY) is an American cartoonist. His comic strip Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer paints an evocative picture of a slightly surreal, historical New York City with a decidedly Jewish sensibility. Julius Knipl has been published in several book collections including Cheap Novelties: The Pleasure of Urban Decay and The Beauty Supply District. Other serialized c ...more
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“You see these unsold goods taking up space in busy stores and ask yourself, 'Who would ever buy such a thing? To whose antiquated and misguided sense of taste would such a thing appeal?' To the dead, I answer! The dead are the eternally out of fashion!


These piles of unsold goods are conclusive proof of the existence of an eternal and insatiable appetite.”
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