Market Day

Created by: James Sturm

Published by: Drawn & Quarterly

ISBN: 1897299974 (Amazon)

Pages: 96

Genre: Drama, Historical

Market Day

That James Sturm’s Market Day would be a gloomy affair is evident from the start. The colours are murky and drab. The shadows loom large and dominate the frame. The dialogue is sparse. And the book is about an artiste. Which almost guarantees angst, self-doubt, and a large cereal bowl-full of mopiness.

Tch, artists.

The thing is: Sturm uses his protagonist’s preoccupation with both artistic excellence and the recognition of those with taste to tell a quietly powerful tale of brute pragmatism versus the more fanciful propellant of idealism. Market Day, for what it offers, is a nearly flawless presentation. With the exception of one admittedly key event (that was difficult enough to interpret that my wife and I—both astute readers—differed on our belief of what Sturm intended), Sturm does a fantastic job laying out both the geographical and psychological landscapes his story inhabits.

Mendelman is a craftsman par excellence, a weaver of rugs with a sense for developing abstract ideas into a rug’s design. His thread count is high and his design-oriented eye sharp. He abandoned working for a lesser manufacturer and purchased his own loom for love of the game. He believes in beauty and believes that beauty, being inherently valuable, ought to be worth more money.

The typical collision between art and commerce forms the central conflict of Market Day. Mendelman is on the cusp of first-time fatherhood and goes to market to profit from his creations. He is already nervous about the prospect of his new responsibilities and is plagued by dark premonitions of his wife’s death in childbirth (he, like the stereotypical artist, is something of a drama queen), but what will happen if things do not go as expected at market? As the clouds of pessimism gather, Sturm allows us to spend more and more time in the tumult of Mendelman’s psychological morass.

Though the book is spare in both line and word, Market Day provides rich fodder for thought and even though he sometimes plays to stereotype, Sturm gives the reader the pleasure of a novella that finds its deep root in the soul of the human experience. Though Mendelman’s fears are not my own and his interaction with them is an experience quite unlike my own, the character is accessible because of his humanity and intriguing because of his quirks.

Despite the one ambiguously presented instance (which occurs in the emporium for those who’re wondering), Market Day is a laudable creation from an admirable creator, and well worth the small investment of time required to finish its ninety-some pages.

 

 

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I am Seth T. Hahne and these are my reviews.

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