Cartoonist Ben Katchor pays attention to the forgettable things all around us. Tags on women's clothing, sugar packets, boxes of cheap second-hand postcards... all of it is the raw material from which Katchor conjures his panoramas of wistfullness and nostalgia.
His most recent book, Hand-Drying in America, is a compilation of monthly comic strips created for Metropolis magazine. True to form, Katchor ruminates on dancing schools, bars of soap, and the sound of the common light switch. "The architect spent hundreds of hours designing burnished brass switch plates for his new office tower, and then left it to a contractor to install these 79-cent switches behind them. ... The sound we are greeted with ... recalls to mind the dirty men's room in the rear of a Babylonian coffee shop."
Katchor says that his strips are "graphic notations of dreams that I have about the city." He often writes, he says, just before going to bed, when he's in a half-waking state. "This concentration on these minute details is not just to be willfully obscure. It's like a scientist looking at the molecular structure of things. If you really want to see how things work, you have to go down to the small scale."
Katchor appears on Tuesday April 9 at the University Book Store. Free of charge, beginning at 7 pm.