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Building Stories (original 2012; edition 2012)
by Chris Ware
Building Stories by Chris Ware (2012)
Books Read in 2016 (559)
Top Five Books of 2016 (420)
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I received this "book" as a Santathing gift this Christmas. I really enjoyed piecing this story together. It comes in a big box with various artifacts inside that contain parts of the graphic novel. They come in all shapes and sizes, and have no reading order, so it really feels like you are a detective trying to put the events of the main character's life in order. The main character herself is a very ordinary person, which I think is kind of the point. How many huge, beautiful, and exhaustive graphic novels zero in on the inner life of an ordinary housewife like this? Not very many from my reading experience. I loved the minute details in the art work, especially those that feature cross-sections of her apartment building. From this graphic novel, I got the feeling of opening up a doll house and peering into the lives inside. Thank you to whoever bought me this book! ( )
I read this for a class on narratives in the 21st century (that do weird things with time/memory).
I really enjoyed this! Building Stories was a fascinating read & I had so much fun piecing together the different parts and wondering if/how they fit into the bigger story (and whether they were even real).
A pleasure to manhandle! I wonder sometimes what poetry will look like in the 21st century, or what economy means to future authors and artists, or how anyone could portray America in the twenty-teens as anything other than a complete logjam. These are kind of grandiose things to think about at work but as someone who lives in fear of the "new" they're necessary questions to ask. So while a some people think this collection is possibly too depressing (and on one level I'd agree- as character studies these can run kind of shallow) I was personally really excited by "Building Stories" because it shows what print culture can still do and how it can command and keep our attention. I don't use the word "zeitgeist" often (if ever) but this collection really gets the "zeitgeist" of the USA c. 2012 in a way that is poetic, economic and hopeful (at least if reading comics for hours and hours gives you hope.)
It's an epic creation in terms of its scope, so let me start there.
Ten years in the making, Chris Ware's story-experience-in-a-box (I just can't call it a book, and neither could the judges in the Tournament of Books, who ultimately voted it down due to its lack of resemblance to a book) defies the traditional linear notion of a story. I'm not talking about chronology; authors mess with timelines all the time with varying levels of success, but Ware's fourteen-piece story has no particular beginning or end. Open the box and start wherever you want; your understanding of the characters and their lives and emotions and thoughts will form one brick at a time, no matter in what order you choose to read the parts. It's almost as though instead of hearing a story told, you're seeing it...built. It seems similar to the way we construct our identities in life: there's no specific, rational plan so much as there is a back-and-forth of new experiences and reflections on old ones.
"Building" in the title also refers to the three-story apartment building where the characters’ lives converge. At moments, Ware even gives the building its own turn at narration (in a transparently opinionated voice, which seems counterintuitive; I’d expected the building to be the only objective narrator).
Although I granted Building Stories four stars (and even teetered on five) for its ambition, creative genius, and technical skill, if I had graded it on how much I actually enjoyed “reading” it, I would have to give it…maybe one and a half. It’s just sort of anticlimactic (and really, how can a story with no prescribed order really have an effective climax?). It’s also outrageously depressing.
In some ways, reading this was like watching Avatar. It was one brilliant creator’s decade-long project, an innovative offering that was supposed to blow the minds of those who experienced it. But even though I can appreciate all that…I just didn’t much care for it.
Great for those who like: character-driven stories, ambiguous endings (and beginnings), memorable reading experiences.
Belongs to Series
The Acme Novelty Library (16, 18)
References to this work on external resources.
Wikipedia in English (1)
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.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)741.5 — The arts Graphic arts and decorative arts Drawing & drawings Cartoons, Caricatures, Comics
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