Building StoriesBuilding Stories by Chris Ware
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

somewhere toward the “end” of Building Stories, our protag is hunting hurriedly for something to read on a trip, and rejecting classic after classic, asks in annoyance: “Why does every ‘great book’ have to always be about criminals or perverts?”

it’s a good punch line to a long, complicated, messy story largely about one woman’s very quotidian life. and the best parts of any great story are always about those quotidian, Mrs. Dalloway moments, when the most ordinary thing opens up to the infinite.

Building Stories certainly has those moments.

the story of Building Stories rambles between past and present, dreamt and actual futures, imaginings and daydreams and some odd digressions into the life of bees. as a story its impact is not linear, i think, but cumulative–more a quilt than a filmstrip. this makes for a nice reflection of how people actually live their lives, i think–not relentlessly forward, but wandering in and out of the present, thought disappearing into an eddy of the past, dreams taking us down currents that don’t actually exist.

i suspect but do not know that the pieces of the work (it’s divided into fourteen pieces, each printed separately, in different formats and foldings and on different materials–must have given the printer kittens) can be read in any order they present themselves, which is an interesting choice. piffle on standard narrative! it’s a great experiment, and i think it works.

i’m not well-versed enough in comic art to comment much on the visual style or the panel transitions or the subtle use of [fill in the blank with the appropriate arty term]. but the reader will find some panels, or arrangements of drawings, or what’s not said in the space between, some highly emotional gut-punches.

don’t plan to take it on a plane with you–in fact you’ll want to reserve the entirety of the couch space to lay it out. my one quibble with the work is that for quite a few of the pieces, you’ll also need a magnifying glass to read the type if you’re over 20.

but it’s worth the space and the effort, and i look forward to re-reading it after my eyes recover.