Sunday, October 30, 2011

Market Day

by James Sturm

Despite being a very quick read, Market Dayis an impressive example of a literary graphic novel.  Mendleman is an anxious rug weaver, living somewhere in Eastern Europe around the turn of the twentieth century.  He has a baby on the way, and finds himself worrying about all the things that first time fathers worry about.  Market Day comes around, and because of her advanced pregnancy, Mendleman's wife stays home, forcing him to make the lengthy journey on his own.

When arriving at the market, Mendleman meets up with some of his fellow artisans, and they stop in at A. Finkler & Son, the store that always purchased their wares.  The problem is that the store has changed ownership, and where its previous proprietor only bought the best goods, and paid top dollar, the current shopkeeper is more interested in selling cheaply made goods for a lower price.

Sturm captures the beginnings of the industrial age, and the shift it caused in the production and value of many items, without ever openly discussing it.  One also feels that this book is as much about our own modern era, where production has all but abandoned North America for cheaper, shoddier places like China.  Later, Mendelman travels to an emporium in another town, chasing rumors of better prices, only to find himself lost in what was the Wal-Mart of its day, where market pressures forced down the prices of even high-end goods.

This is a very intelligent book, beautifully illustrated with expansive panels that evoke the growing hustle and bustle of the towns while preserving the tranquility of the countryside.  I enjoyed this book, although I think I would have been pretty displeased had I spent the cover price ($22-24, depending on your country) for a story that is so short.  Does that make me the equivalent of the guy who took over A. Finkler's store?  Probably.

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