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Building Stories by Chris Ware

Building Stories (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Chris Ware

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4962320,596 (4.36)89
Title:Building Stories
Authors:Chris Ware
Info:Pantheon (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover
Collections:Your library, Read 2012

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Building Stories by Chris Ware (2012)



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English (22)  Dutch (1)  All languages (23)
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
Wonderfully drawn and poignant, albeit inconclusive and very depressing. ( )
  dazzyj | Jan 1, 2015 |
Inventive story telling. Very heavy material. Good read for something different. ( )
  fighterofevil | Aug 26, 2014 |
Great read. Really. ( )
  maartekes | Jan 1, 2014 |
Building Stories is a graphic "novel" that arrives in a board game-sized cardboard box and contains 14 different components. These consist of a hard-bound book, small comic strips, newspaper-sized stories, newsletter-like pamphlets, etc. The interlocked stories center around the residents of three flats in an apartment building, hence the double meaning of the title - the stories are about characters in a building, and you work to the build the story as you string the 14 components together.

I'm not 100 percent sure how I feel about the concept of Building Stories being presented in this way. One part of me feels like it was very artistic and creative while another part feels like it was just gimmicky (although I tended to lean toward the former). Practically, it was a bit frustrating to read like this. I kept getting pulled out of the stories throughout the reading process by trying to figure out what part I was meant to read next. By the end, I was both convinced that I had read them in the wrong order and that the gaps in time between and within the separate components made it impossible for them to ever be read entirely chronologically.

Still, the stories were interesting enough that I felt enthralled by this book. I read the entire thing in two sittings (tried very hard for one, but I started late in the evening and was tired), which has become something of a rarity for me these days and thus worth noting. In the apartment building are four residents - the lonely landlady who has seen many people come and go as she approaches the end of her own life, an unhappily married couple who recall their initial thrill at meeting one another, and a depressed young woman who despairs that she will be alone (excepting her cat) forever and tries to rekindle her creative interested in art and writing. The "book" centers largely on the young woman and eventually the apartment building and the other characters drop away. The landlady's story was a sad backdrop for all this and provided a foil to the young woman's ultimate choices, while the married couple's story seemed to end abruptly, leaving the reader wondering about them.

I did very much enjoy getting to know the young woman and her story. In her life (and indeed in the stories of the other characters), I felt like Ware really got to the universal feelings of loneliness and pathos that he attempted in Jimmy Corrigan, which I think failed miserably in that case. The beginning parts of her story were especially riveting as she contemplates her life choices thus far, recalling her first major relationship in college and her nannying job as a postgrad. Later, her stories in suburbia became a little odd, mostly because some elements seemed to come out of nowhere (i.e., her sudden turn to survivalist mode) while important events seemed to be brushed over fairly quickly (SPOILERS For example, her marriage, the birth of her daughter, the death of her father all just seem to happen with very little commentary.end spoilers). I felt like things kind of petered out a little here, and the ending - if you can figure out exactly which page that is - was not satisfying.

The book also contains brief interludes of tales about Branford Bee, who is - you guessed it - a bee. These are funny little asides about this poor clueless bee who keeps repeating the same silly mistakes. Of course, one could read deeper meanings into all this and pull out symbolic messages, but I think the book could have just easily done without these (or less of these) and still been very powerful. Speaking of powerful, one of my favorite parts was a section written in the voice of the apartment building itself and remembering all the tenants over the year. It was very beautifully done and again, really got at more universal themes. A couple of the smaller strips were completely wordless looks at little snippets from the young woman's life and were a bit humorous as such.

In the end, I'm still sort of not sure how I feel about this book. It's certainly unique as a concept and had some interesting characters who spoke to universal questions about the meaning of life and universal emotions such as loneliness and despair while noting the human foible of always thinking the grass is greener on the other side. Still, there were flaws that were glaring enough to hamper my total enjoyment of the book. The very different quality of this "book" also makes it difficult for me to recommend this book as I think it takes a very specific kind of reader to enjoy both the style and themes of this book thoroughly. Nonetheless, I do appreciate Ware's efforts at tackling such a difficult concept and complex story. ( )
  sweetiegherkin | Nov 23, 2013 |
A link to Brainpickings.org summary of Building Stories, including interviews with the author.
http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/11/05/building-stories-chris-ware/ ( )
  lgaikwad | Nov 18, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 22 (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


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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:04:44 -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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