A Bintel Brief: Love and Longing in Old New York

A Bintel Brief: Love and Longing in Old New York

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by Liana Finck
     
 

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In an illustrative style that is a thrilling mash-up of Art Spiegelman's deft emotionality, Roz Chast's hilarious neuroses, and the magical spirit of Marc Chagall, A Bintel Brief is Liana Finck’s evocative, elegiac love letter to the turn-of-the-century Jewish immigrants who transformed New York City and America itself.

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Overview

In an illustrative style that is a thrilling mash-up of Art Spiegelman's deft emotionality, Roz Chast's hilarious neuroses, and the magical spirit of Marc Chagall, A Bintel Brief is Liana Finck’s evocative, elegiac love letter to the turn-of-the-century Jewish immigrants who transformed New York City and America itself.

A Bintel Brief "A Bundle of Letters"—was the enormously popular advice column of The Forward, the widely read Yiddish language newspaper begun in 1906 New York. Written by a diverse community of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, these letters spoke to the daily heartbreaks and comedies of their new lives, capturing the hope, isolation, and confusion of assimilation.

Drawn from these letters—selected and adapted by Liana Finck and brought to life in her appealing two-color illustrations—A Bintel Brief is a tour of Lower East Side New York, and includes an imaginative conversation with the Yiddish "Dear Abby," Abraham Cahan, The Forward's legendary editor and creator of the Bintel Brief column.

From premarital sex to family politics to struggles with jobs and money, A Bintel Brief is an enlightening look at a segment of America's rich cultural past that offers fresh insights for our own lives as well.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - David Kipen
[Finck's] visual style…varies from chapter to chapter, depending on the material. In some places, it feels handmade to the point of amateurishness; elsewhere, it is plangent as heartbreak. Taken together, even just these 11 letters provide an invaluable sooty window onto life on the Lower East Side…Inevitably, A Bintel Brief makes you positively hungry to read comparable letters to American immigrant newspapers around the country right now…
Publishers Weekly
03/03/2014
The Jewish Daily Forward was a Yiddish socialist newspaper based in New York City (known simply as “the Forward”) that, among other things, helped early-20th-century Jewish immigrants adapt to their new lives in America; “Bintel Briefs” was a hugely popular advice column based on letters from readers. Finck fictionalizes a collection of these letters, turning them into short stories linked together through the narrative of a young woman who finds the letters pasted into a book belonging to her grandfather. When she opens the book, Abraham Cahan, the founding editor of the Forward, leaps out and joins her. Cahan takes her through the stories and grows and changes himself, now living in the present day. It’s a clever idea, but one that never quite resonates emotionally. Finck’s art is decidedly and deliberately crude but has its charms. Each letter has a slightly different visual style, which is intended to reflect its story, but the art is not distinctive enough to feel deliberate, and it instead ends up feeling inconsistent and, in some cases, amateurish. The present day interludes that connect the stories give some consistency, but they’re printed in a strange faded blue font that is hard to read. (Apr.)
NPR's Fresh Air
“[One] the most powerful books I’ve read so far this year… Finck’s illustrations intensify the emotional resonance of these letters, invoking the buoyant magic of Marc Chagall, but also sometimes descending into the cramped world of the tenements.”
The Paris Review (online review)
“[Finck] brings an entirely new dimension to what has become, for modern readers, a portal into a world that feels impossibly distant.”
New York Times
Taken together, even just these 11 letters provide an invaluable sooty window onto life on the Lower East Side…. “A Bintel Brief” makes you positively hungry to read comparable letters to American immigrant newspapers around the country right now.”
Slate
“[A] sharp, evocative style that reminds me sometimes of Ben Katchor and other times of Roz Chast. Finck’s book is more than a collection of advice columns, though-it’s an imaginative leap into the art of nostalgia…I really loved A Bintel Brief.”
Tablet
“A wonderfully illustrated gem of a book…I’ve read that story several times over the years, but rarely savored it quite the way I did with Finck’s book. This is because of the drawings.”
Miami Herald
“[A] rich, hilarious and authentic fable. …Finck’s versatility and imagination makes this book a delight.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062291615
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
04/15/2014
Pages:
128
Sales rank:
716,678
Product dimensions:
7.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.60(d)

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