Mendleman's life goes through an upheaval when he discovers that he can no longer earn a living for his growing family doing the work that defines him—making well-crafted rugs by hand. A proud artisan, he takes his donkey-drawn cart to the market only to be turned away when the distinctive shop he once sold to now stocks only cheaply manufactured merchandise. As the realities of the marketplace sink in, Mendleman unravels.
James Sturm draws a quiet, reflective, and beautiful portrait of eastern Europe in the early 1900s–bringing to life the hustle and bustle of an Old World marketplace on the brink of industrialization. Market Day is an ageless tale of how economic and social forces can affect a single life.
"Mr. Sturm's other explorations of times past . . . have always made tumultuous events feel personal. Market Day is no exception. The splendid artwork . . . manages to evoke—depending on the scene—wonder or sadness, though the color palette mostly stays muted."—George Gene Gustines, The New York Times
"James Sturm is a lean, mean storytelling machine. His economy of style and motion delivers an exquisite poignancy that never becomes sentimental."—Alison Bechdel
"The timeless dilemma of balancing artistic integrity and the dictates of the marketplace is addressed with compassion and sensitivity in this recounting of an eventful 24 hours in the life of a rug-maker in eastern Europe in the early 1900s. Carting his lovingly handcrafted rugs to town, Mendleman discovers that the shop that carried his wares has been taken over by a new, bottom-line-oriented owner who stocks only cheaply made merchandise. With the disappearance of his patron, Mendleman's world is upended. His only recourse is to sell his rugs for a pittance to a grand new emporium, the Wal-Mart of its age. Although he must accept the insult for the survival of his young family, the blow drives the sensitive artist to the breaking point. Sturm is Mendleman's ideal champion. For nearly two decades, he has been drawing masterful graphic stories that, however elegant in their visual simplicity, have failed to garner the attention given to louder, flashier comics. The creator of a work as rich as Market Day deserves a better fate than Mendleman's."—Gordon Flagg, Booklist
"Cartoonist and educator Sturm turns in a tightly woven graphic novella about a shtetl craftsman whose life and livelihood shatter against the rising industrial behemoth of the early 20th century. Mendleman is a nervous rug weaver with a child on the way. His devotion to his craft brings him to the brink of art, but when he suddenly loses his major client to modernization, he finds himself, effectively, patronless. Suddenly a castaway amid economic forces that render his virtues meaningless, he collapses as his previously unnamable anxieties find specific and destructive form. Sturm's tale comprises a day's cycle, and the magnitude of Mendleman's radical descent must sometimes be stated or inferred. But most of the book's important details are effectively portrayed as part of the quotidian warp and woof of life's patterns and relationships. Sturm has infused his reliably disciplined storytelling style with slow pacing and spare graphics, but some bravura sequences give the story impact. Although the details of rural Eastern European Jewish life at the turn of the century ring true, the book is less rooted in a specifically explicated setting than some of Sturm's previous historical fictions, allowing Mendleman's dilemma to function as a broader metaphor for the perpetual struggle between independent creativity and impersonal market forces."—Publishers Weekly