Dan Klein talks to cartoonist Ben Katchor today in Tablet Magazine. His new collection, The Cardboard Valise, is bereft of the Jewish characters—or the explicitly Jewish characters—that dominated his earlier volumes. Of course, Katchor, with the graphic artist’s characteristic eye for the corruptions that those of us who work too closely with language fail to see, blows the importance of such distinctions to bits:
At this point in history, the word “Jew” by itself doesn’t tell me anything. Using the word by itself is just a lazy way of categorizing the multifaceted history of the world. Anti-Semites deal in such gross generalizations.
In the make-up of some of my characters there is an echo of Jewish history or culture, but in a quantity and of a quality that you might not recognize because of its mixture with a thousand other historical details. If the make-up of human character can be unraveled it’s only on that kind of a microscopic level. The labels of ethnicity and national identity are fraudulent simplifications perpetuated for criminal and/or business purposes.