‘The Impresario of Human Drudgery’ by Ben Katchor

Ben Katchor’s short comic strips (for lack of a better term) take place in a parallel Manhattan of fleapit cinemas and bizarre small businesses, which, as in Nicholson Baker’s fictions, pay homage to the act of attention itself: there are strips on liquid soap thievery, an opium den-style ‘Nail-Biting Salon’, the romance of the take-out menu. Katchor’s nervy, scratchy line is part of his work’s focus on the shabbily pre-owned, as is, somehow, his arcane, lovely prose. “The faint odor of a month’s worth of wanted posters under glass taints the otherwise thrilling scent of yet-to-be-delivered mail.” “A number of dramatists have turned to the sightseeing tour bus as a unique and affordable method of realising a theatrical spectacle in the midst of a depressed economy.” “The milk of human kindness, condensed into a dented sixteen-ounce can, turns up on a shelf outside the men’s room.”

Included in Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer, Little, Brown, 1996