Thursday, January 31, 2013

Building Stories (by Chris Ware)

By far the best of the tournament books I've read so far, even though I've enjoyed all of them. But this book, a graphic novel, is incredible, and it's the first one that feels, to me, like a genuine literary achievement.

The hook of Building Stories is that it comes in a large board-game-sized box full of newspapers, comic books, pamphlets, even a game board. The pieces can be read in any order, and they tell the story of the inhabitants of a certain apartment building. (So the reading experience, where you learn some sketchy outlines and then fill in the blanks as you go, means you're building the stories. And it's also stories about a building. Double meaning! I see what you did there, Chris Ware.) This also means your experience of reading it will never quite match up with anyone else's, since whatever you start with informs the rest of your reading experience. After I opened the box, I grabbed one piece and aych grabbed another one, and we both had two totally different entry points. (She wanted to find out about one key event in the protagonist's life; I wanted to find out what happened to the bee.) Once you finish, you will immediately want to start over again from the beginning to catch everything you missed.

The main character is a woman with a disability (handled wonderfully) and body image issues and depression (ditto) who is not quite likeable, but somehow sympathetic in her utter realness. I am actually stunned that Chris Ware is a dude, because this female character is so complex and authentic, and she is definitely the main focus of the book. Well, her and the bee.

I've heard great things about The Round House, but will not be surprised if Building Stories makes it almost to the end of the tournament along with that one. The only downside is that it's expensive, and it doesn't really lend itself to Kindle or library lending. I've already got three people in line to read mine. Five stars!



Anonymous Eliza said...

I've not read this one yet - but I loved Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth SO MUCH and wanted to recommend it to you if you haven't read it.

1:48 PM  
Blogger mo pie said...

I do not know this! I will put it on my wishlist!

8:59 PM  

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