Bruce's Reviews > Market Day

Market Day by James Sturm
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's review
Dec 08, 2011

really liked it
Read in November, 2011

Mendleman, the weaver awakes early on market day and heads to town with his rugs in a mule drawn cart. His wife is pregnant with their first child, and as he trudges along in the pre-dawn he worries about all the things that could possibly go wrong, and what the terrible consequences might be. As dawn breaks and he approaches the marketplace his mood improves, he’s inspired with new rug designs and contemplates the pleasant bustle of humanity as the other vendors set up their wares. He meets a rabbi who greets him with words of encouragement, and then two of his friends, fellow craftsmen, who accompany him to the store that purchases their wares.

They are shocked to find that store has been sold, and the new owner and buyer is only interested in cheap goods and refuses to purchase their handcrafted ones. Mendleman is told, “We have all the rugs we need.” Dispirited he wanders out into the marketplace looking for another buyer. Now the bustle of humanity seems to have soured into a stew of selfish meanness and greed. Things just go downhill from there, and when he finally does find a buyer in another town, he sells not only his rugs at a price much lower than he expected, but also his mule and cart. Tomorrow he will sell his loom, because all is hopeless, and he spends the rest of the day and night in a meandering and drunken stupor until eventually he arrives back at his shtetl.

Strum’s dark and limited palette of browns, blacks and yellows is very fitting for his gloomy, meditative tale of a shy, sensitive (and perhaps overly sensitive) artisan ground down in the transition to a modern economy of mass production. It’s an excellent portrait of despair and pain.

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