Hand-Drying in America, by Ben Katchor

For one brief, glorious moment, I thought Ben Katchor's Hand-Drying in America was actually a nonfiction graphic novel about the development of electric hand dryers, like an American version of this. Little known fact: I am obsessed with hand dryers, and have long dreamt of having one installed in my bathroom, so I was ridiculously excited at the idea. Sadly (for me, at least), Katchor's book has little to do with hand dryers, but its actual subject matter may be even better—and will definitely appeal to a wider audience*.

Ben Katchor is an award-winning cartoonist best known for the comic strip Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer. Hand-Drying in America is a collection of more than 150 delicately surreal mini-comics about architecture and urban living. Most of the stories are a single page, and offer magical realism-style musing on everything from the mystery of why certain men like to sit with their legs spread on the subway (according to Katchor, it's because they're reliving their first geography lessons) to why people like aisle seats (they're subconsciously attracted to the warm current of electricity running through the aisle lights).

Hand-Drying in America is a solid foot square. I'm usually irritated by oversized titles, as it limits where they can be shelved, but I found myself wishing this book was even bigger—it was difficult to appreciate the details of Katchor's richly colored, angular sketches on the more elaborate pages. Regardless, this collection is gorgeous to behold, a pleasure to read, and would make an ideal gift for anyone interested in deeply weird stories about the domestic lives of city dwellers.

*Although I bet there are plenty of fellow hand dryer enthusiasts out there. I'm just too scared to find out, because Googling “hand dryer fixation” seems like a bad idea.

Review based on a publisher-provided copy.
Posted by: Julianka


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