In 1825, Mordecai Noah, a New York politician and amateur playwright possessed of a utopian vision, summoned all the lost tribes of Israel to an island near Buffalo in the hope of establishing a Jewish state. His failed plan, a mere footnote in Jewish-American history, is the starting point for Ben Katchor’s brilliantly imagined epic that unfolds on the streets of New York a few years later.
A disgraced kosher slaughterer, an importer of religious articles and women’s hosiery, a pilgrim peddling soil from the Holy Land, a latter-day Kabbalist, a man with plans to carbonate Lake Erie–these are just some of the characters who move through Katchor’s universe, their lives interwoven in a common struggle to settle into the New World even as it erupts into a financial frenzy that could as easily leave them bankrupt as carry them into the future.
BEN KATCHOR is the author of, among other books, Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer; The Cardboard Valise; and The Jew of New York. He was the first cartoonist to receive a MacArthur Fellowship. He teaches at Parsons/The New School in New York City.