“A dairy restaurant feels to me like an urban, walled Garden of Eden, but it’s in this world, so it gets trapped in the doings of this world.”
The great cartoonist Ben Katchor rejoins the show to talk about his brand-new book, The Dairy Restaurant (Schocken), a 500-page illustrated history of, um, dairy restaurants! We get into what drew him to the milekhdike personality, the remnants of Eastern European Jewish culture that call to him, why this book had to be prose-with-pictures rather than comics, the decades of research and interviews he conducted, and why these restaurants came to represent the history of how Jews moved away from their parents’ professions. We also discuss just what went wrong with the world, why his favorite books are old Chicago Yellow Pages directories, why just studying Jewish history can constitute a sort of Judaism, his fascination with interwar Warsaw, his plea for a controlled economy, and why The Dairy Restaurant had to begin in the Garden of Eden. Give it a listen (and check out our past conversations from 2013 and 2016)! And go buy The Dairy Restaurant!
“Text is about time, and pictures are about space.”
‘I miss the restaurants I never went to.”
“I think everybody for a few moments should think about everything they know, and say, ‘What do I know about it and how does it impinge on my life?'”
About our Guest
Ben Katchor is the author of, among other books, Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer; The Cardboard Valise; Hand-Drying in America: And Other Stories; 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. His new book is The Dairy Restaurant.
Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Parsons on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photos of Ben Katchor by me. It’s on my instagram.