Readersforum's Blog

November 5, 2012

A Life in A Box: Invention, Clarity and Meaning in Chris Ware’s ‘Building Stories’

By Calvin Reid

Chris Ware, the author of Building Stories, a new graphic novel to be published by Pantheon in October, is likely the most famous literary comics artist—graphic novelist if you prefer—that isn’t Art Spiegelman. He is the author of such works as The Acme Novelity Library, a critcally acclaimed continuing series of hardcover graphic anthologies he often uses to introduce characters and stories that eventually evolve into larger standalone graphic novels. He’s also the author of the equally critically acclaimed 2000 graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth (Pantheon). Both Acme Novelty Library and Jimmy Corrigan have received numerous prizes and awards including winning Eisner awards, the National Book Awards of the comics industry.

His works offer powerfully emotional stories, created through the slow accretion of physical detail, emotional incident and memory, all elucidated through complex visual layouts and inventive and engaging ways to insert text into them. Building Stories is no different. The “book” is actually a large box with 14 different kinds of archetypal print formats—among them a hardcover book, a paperback book, a children’s book, newspapers and magazines, mini-comics, a board game and more—all of which carry a story focused deeply on the life of a young women, an amputee, and her sense of herself, her past and her future. Readers can pick up any publication and enter the character’s story at any point—there is no strict sequence. Like all of Ware’s works, he manages to peer deeply into the life of his characters while offering readers new ways to embrace his narrative.

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