Cheap Novelties

"Twenty-five years on, [Cheap Novelties'] observations of what is lost as cityscapes evolve and shift due to gentrification and changing demographics are still fresh and relevant."—The Guardian

Cheap Novelties is an early testament to Ben Katchor's extraordinary prescience as both a gifted cartoonist and an astute urban chronicler. Rumpled, middle-aged Julius Knipl photographs a vanishing city--an urban landscape of low-rent apartment buildings, obsolete industries, monuments to forgotten people and events, and countless sources of inexpensive food. In Katchor's signature pen and ink wash style, Cheap Novelties is a portrait of what we have lost to gentrification, globalization, and the malling of America that is as moving today as it was twenty-five years ago.

In 1991, the original Cheap Novelties appeared in an unassuming paperback from the RAW contributor; it would become one of the first books of the contemporary graphic novel golden age, and it set the stage for Katchor to become regarded as a modern-day cartooning genius. Drawn & Quarterly's twenty-fifth anniversary edition is a deluxe hardcover.


"How can we yearn for something that never was For little things forever lost that were never ours Ben Katchor’s melancholy impregnates every frame of these beautiful stories. Silent despair, obscure industrial minutiae, memories of lost diners, the whispered prayer of multi-dwelling laws are but a fraction of the many enigmas pondered in Cheap Novelties. Under Katchor’s pious, amorous gaze wonder blooms in this urban Babylon. Novelty items transmogrify into prodigies that encapsulate our fragility, beauty and fleeting existence. A masterpiece of graphic narrative."—Guillermo del Toro, filmmaker

"The staccato vignettes, where narration and dialogue noisily intermix with one another like the cacophony of a busy street, are about pure pleasure."—Vulture

"Ben Katchor’s distinctive comic strips tell the singular story of a surreal city and the people who live and work there... Attempting to describe these strips isn’t easy: they broadcast on an exclusive frequency and, like the works of novelist Steven Millhauser, turn the odd minutiae of urban life into the stuff of strange and compelling narrative."—Paste Magazine

"Cheap Novelties: The Pleasures of Urban Decayis one of those magical books that changes the way the reader views the world after its been consumed."—AV Club

"A wonderful peek into an old yet new world, Katchor’s work pleasantly combines art and character, opening readers’ eyes and ears to the sights and sounds of this metropolis in a way that is simultaneously relaxing and thought provoking. Recommended for those who enjoy urban history, nostalgia, and social commentary."—Library Journal

"Ben Katchor’s sublime collection…chronicles the wanderings of Julius Knipl, a rumpled photographer-for-hire taking pictures of buildings in a gently surreal streetscape that vaguely resembles Manhattan’s financial district of old. Knipl laments a fading world of dairy cafeterias, tchotchke salesmen and trophy manufacturers."Wall Street Journal


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