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Building Stories by Chris Ware

Building Stories (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Chris Ware

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6022916,247 (4.38)91
Title:Building Stories
Authors:Chris Ware
Info:Pantheon (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover
Collections:Your library, Read 2012

Work details

Building Stories by Chris Ware (2012)

  1. 00
    Shoplifter by Michael Cho (sweetiegherkin)
    sweetiegherkin: Both are graphic novels (although Building Stories is a more complex with its multiple parts) with female protagonists who feel lonely and isolated. Both are imbued with a sense of pathos, although Shoplifter has a more optimistic ending and bits of humor throughout than does Building Stories, whereas the latter has a larger scope in its storytelling, following the protagonist for a longer period of time.… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
Stunning. As an artistic and a mental exercise, the book -- a collection of 14 different types of graphic narrative, from long, horizontal stand-alone comic strips to children's books to newspapers to a huge gameboard-like fold-out -- is a marvel of construction. And as a composite narrative (the more accurate but less attractive term for "story cycle" or "novel-in-stories," but never has "composite narrative" so aptly fit a work of fiction), this book is a mind-boggling piece of ingenuity, with each separate item in the book informing and overlapping on each other, and all the orbital stories circling back into the main narrative as well. It doesn't matter which order you read the stories in or how many times you read -- and this will reward re-reading -- the mental exercises and hidden surprises available in this work are exhilarating.

But that's not why I love Chris Ware. I love Chris Ware because he writes so beautifully and honestly about the basic, ordinary human experience that he renders the mundane sublime and heart-shattering. His book Jimmy Corrigan was the first that ever caused me to break open in wracking sobs, and Building Stories did it again. I sat at my kitchen with pieces of the book open before me and I quaked from crying. My toes shook.

And I felt so... known... afterward. It's a kind of compassion that Ware accomplishes in writing these stories. A kind of perfect empathy. You weep because you know that someone out there understands life -- your life -- so well that he has managed to put it into words and images, even if the people look a little different, if the circumstances aren't exactly the same. He knows how you feel or have felt or will feel. And you will love him for it. ( )
  Snoek-Brown | Feb 7, 2016 |
WOW. I was a big fan of Ware's earlier book Jimmy Corrigan, but this latest one seems like a leap beyond. It plays a lot more notes than Corrigan's meditation on lonely behaviors, and the playfulness is put to a lot better use. The term "book" is a little loose in this case, since Stories comes as a giant box loaded with everything from small pamphlets to a giant board that folds out as if you were going to play a board game.

These are weird and bad comparisons to use, but the whole thing feels like my favorite part of Infinite Jest: the middle-third where you get 20-30 page jags of some of the best writing you've ever seen, going on for hundreds of pages, seemingly (and pleasurably) without end. Of course, IJ has to come to an ending of sorts, but because Stories is in a dozen different pieces in no particular order, there's this very real feeling that it truly is endless, that you could loop back around to read them in a different order and forever stay in that zone.

The other comparison I would make is to Edward P. Jones' The Known World, which has these wild leaps in time, even in the middle of a sentence. You get the feeling that Jones has imagined his character's entire lives into the future, and that's a similar impression to what Ware brings. Pieces are set as early as the '40s and as late as the modern day, covering different spans of memory and time. One memorable piece—and probably the best to orient yourself by—covers 24 hours and is patterned after the Little Golden Books of my childhood, with the gold spine and hard cover.

Pro-tip: I read from smallest to largest, and left the giant-but-thin (as opposed to giant-but-many-pages) newspaper thing for last. It was a good accidental decision and a great closer for a line of dialogue that's borderline fourth-wall at the end. :) ( )
  gregorybrown | Oct 18, 2015 |
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  Ritinha_ | Aug 26, 2015 |
I wish I'd written this review sooner after finishing the book. Building Stories comes in a box and consists of 14 separate pieces. Some are hard bound books, some are huge newspaper foldouts, and some are just short little strips. There is no specific order to read them in, the pieces just gradually come together.

Some pieces were definitely better than others. The author's ability to capture the inner thoughts of his characters really got to me. The ways heartache, insecurity, and loneliness are depicted in words and illustrations was really powerful.

This has been on my to read list for quite a while. Definitely worth the wait. ( )
  klburnside | Aug 11, 2015 |
In a large box, itself a witty graphic work of art, the reader discovers 14 discrete graphic publications ranging from books to folded “strips”. Everything, as billed, that the reader might need for building stories. This is Chris Ware at his finest, challenging the very form of the graphic novel perhaps to breaking point. There is no set route through the items contained in the box. The reader could choose any order. But of course there is a linear progression for many of the works since they follow a woman from youth to lonely adulthood, marriage, and motherhood. Other items concentrate on Brandford, The Bee. But all of them intersect at points and nothing is entirely isolated. And that might be Chris Ware’s overall theme, since the loneliness and self-loathing that the main character experiences are self-inflicted. Connectedness comes in many forms. And even when we feel most isolated and alone, one step back reveals an intricate pattern of lines linking, waxing and waning perhaps but still connecting, each of us to a host of others. It’s almost as though we can’t help building stories.

Of course this being a Chris Ware work, you also expect punning turns. And sure enough, at least some of the publications focus instead on the building in which the main character lives for a time.That building itself has an architectural and a social history and the story it could tell about life in Chicago over the course of a century would be just as fascinating, perhaps, as any story that focused on one of its inhabitants. But here too connectedness to a wider frame — the social architecture of an American century — draws our building into the lives of its inhabitants.

The tone across these works is nostalgic but melancholic. And although there are bright moments, even hopefulness, there are an equal number of dark moments and despair. What can’t be ignored, however, is the sheer audacity of producing such an artwork in an age of disposable literature and incorporeal “e”-books. Chris Ware and his publishers have re-established the necessity of physical publication and reconfirmed the notion that great literature is a treasure worthy of indefinite shelf life. But you’ll need an awfully big shelf for this box of wonders. Recommended. ( )
  RandyMetcalfe | May 7, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
I don't want to give the impression that Building Stories is without its faults. On a practical level, older – ahem – comic lovers will sometimes struggle to read Ware's miniature writing, and I must be honest and say that I would rather have been told the best order in which to read its sections (there certainly is one, and I think it's pointless to pretend otherwise). Confusion about past and present sometimes distracts from the deep pleasures of the crammed page. But still, this is a wonderful achievement. It's not only that it is so beautifully and attentively made – though in the age of the Kindle, and of all things disposable, Ware is certainly making a powerful statement. No, it's the sense of belief that gets to you, the absolute commitment to the form. Building Stories does things no traditional novel can, or not without much lumbering effort; and it does other things no comic has hitherto pulled off. No wonder, then, that opening it for the first time makes you feel like a child at Christmas. It's a thing to be treasured, a box of delights.
added by peterbrown | editThe Observer, Rachel Cooke (Oct 21, 2012)
Like everything else here, it’s also slow, demanding and melancholy. Ware has earned the right to make demands of his readers, though. He’s built a whole microcosm in this box, over the course of more than a decade. You have to play by his rules to perceive its complicated splendor, or find yourself like Branford the bee, stuck behind a pane of “hard air” and unable to reach the flower beyond it.
There's nobody else doing anything in this medium that remotely approaches Ware for originality, plangency, complexity and exactitude. Astonishment is an entirely appropriate response.
added by peterbrown | editThe Guardian, Sam Leith (Sep 21, 2012)
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Don't forget to go outside of the house once in a while or you'll lose your source of pollination.

-Clara Louise Ware (1905 - 1990)
Everything you can imagine is real.

- Pablo Picasso (1881 - 1973)
For Marnie, Clara and Mom.
First words
Second picture strip: "I don't care.  I just don't care."
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are employed deceptively.  Any resemblance to actual living, dead or insensate persons, events municipalities, locales, historical figures, emotions, sensations or unnameable poetic impressions is entirely coincidental, or at least not deliberately intended to catalyze litigation.

(Printed inside the cover of the box)
I already felt like a statue that'd stood in one place for too long, blackened by time, passers-by not even looking up at me or remembering why I was there ...
They all felt behind me, anyway, a past I was no longer a part of ... and what did I have to look forward to?
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
In Chris Ware's own words, 'Building Stories follows the inhabitants of a three-flat Chicago apartment house: a thirty-year-old woman who has yet to find someone with whom to spend the rest of her life; a couple who wonder if they can bear each other's company for another minute; and finally an elderly woman who never married and is the building's landlady...'

The scope, the ambition, the artistry and emotional heft of this project are beyond anything even Chris Ware has achieved before. [Amazon.co.uk]
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375424334, Hardcover)

Featured Pages from Building Stories

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(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:11 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Presents an illustrated tale, told in various books and folded sheets, about the residents in a three-story Chicago apartment building, including a lonely single woman, a couple who are growing to despise each other, and an elderly landlady.

(summary from another edition)

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