Wednesday, September 28, 2016

White Collar, by Giacomo Patri

The Great Depression seems like ancient history to young people today.  Giacomo Patri's White Collar: A Novel in Linocuts reminds us that it's not than ancient after all.  The struggles of families in the depression doesn't seem too far off from struggles some families have today.

Patri self published White Collar in the late 1930s, then was picked up by a publisher in 1940.  The stark black-and-white illustrations and the bare-bones, wordless story powerfully communicate a simple message: the road to success can be filled with obstacles, many of which come from powers outside of your control.  The protagonist starts his career as an illustrator, but the Great Depression hits, shutting his employer's doors.  He makes a go of it, opening his own shop, looking for work, but the economy works against him.  He finally comes to embrace the labor movement which he seemed initially to reject.

White Collar is an interesting first-person artifact from the Depression era with obvious relevance today.  It's heavy-handed, in a propagandistic sort of way, but not so much that it becomes impersonal and realistic.  The linotype technique is not very visually appealing to me, but it is effective and supports the tone of the story.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

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