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It’s probably too early to say what the best books of 2010 will be, but I feel safe in saying that James Sturm’s Market Day will easily make it on the short list of works to be considered. The graphic novel, published by Drawn and Quarterly, is about a Jewish rug maker, who heads off to the local market full of hope and elan, only to experience a devastating setback to his career. It’s a smart, moving work that I think will turn a lot of heads when it comes out in March.
In the meantime though, I took the opportunity to talk with Sturm about the book and it’s development — as well as life at the Center for Cartoon Studies, a school he co-founded — over at the main CBR site:
You say that this was originally intended to be a children’s book. Where did the inspiration for “Market Day” come from?
Drawn and Quarterly, my publisher, actually played an important role in the book itself. There was a point when they hooked up with a national distributor – they were distributed by Chronicle Books at one point.
I don’t think that worked out as well as their current partner [Farrar, Straus & Giroux], but when they first hooked up, they felt this would open up a lot more markets, and after the deal happened [publisher] Chris [Oliveros] sent an email to his stable of artists at D&Q saying “One of the things I’m considering is doing a children’s book line. If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them.”
So, in my sketchbook, I conceived a story about a rug weaver. In that version of the story, the focus wasn’t so much on the main character but more about how important one individual’s commitment and support can be for somebody. In “Market Day,” when the Finkler character disappears, it sets off this bad chain of events for Mendleman. In my mind I thought of Chris as the Finkler character and how important my own relationship with D&Q was for my own artistic development. The actual book plays out differently – but I did want to get that across and a sense of camraderie between artists who share a an aesthetic and committment to a certain type of work.