cover image A Bintel Brief: Love and Longing in Old New York

A Bintel Brief: Love and Longing in Old New York

Liana Finck. Ecco, $17.99 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-0-06229-161-5

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.)