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Building Stories Hardcover – Oct 2 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Pantheon; Box Pck edition (Oct. 2 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375424334
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375424335
  • Product Dimensions: 29.7 x 4.9 x 42.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 2.7 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #35,468 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

“I have now spent a week in sloppy communion with Building Stories and am ready to declare it one of the most important pieces of art I have ever experienced. I also sort of want to kill myself...What makes Building Stories monumental isn’t its unorthodox format. It’s Ware’s ruthless and tender pursuit of undisguised emotion. His work is brutal in the way all great art is. I can’t wait to experience it again.” –Steve Almond, The New Republic

“Stunning…As usual, Mr. Ware’s style is a model of compression in both word and picture. Less usual, for the genre as a whole, is the vividness with which he limns his heroine’s intense, if fairly ordinary, inner life…The lack of clear structure, much less traditional linearity, turns reading into an unusually active process. This is a great, easily ownable work of art.” –The New York Times 

“In the end, the process Ware recreates here is universal, which is what gives Building Stories its resonance. The woman's dream, after all, is everyone's: the dream of making sense of ourselves, of having things add up. That they don't, that they can never, is the paradox, and yet what else can we do but try? Here we have the essential question Ware wants us to consider, and his answer—brave, beautiful and brilliant—is the story we build out of this box.” –David Ulin, The Los Angeles Times
 
“This book is a masterpiece….Building Stories is a masterpiece, above all, because it cares about human beings, many of them women. It cares enough to observe human beings closely, both when they are behaving themselves, and when they are engaging in their manifold selfishnesses. It cares enough about them to depict them when they are attractive and when they are singularly unattractive. The contemporary novel, it bears mentioning, does not care this much, because the contemporary novel is so preoccupied with affirmation that it will not risk what Ware is willing to risk. Perhaps Ware risks in this way because, as a person who began by illustrating, he is willing to see exactly what’s taking place around him, all of it. But by building up his stories from the fragments, from the discontinuous moments, episodes of glancing contact, and the disconnections as well as the connections, he has made something that, if possible, is more literary than most contemporary literature. The American novel, that is, has a lot to learn from this very convincing and masterful work.” –Rick Moody, Los Angeles Review of Books
 
“There’s no writer alive whose work I love more than Chris Ware. The only problem is it takes him ten years to draw these things and then I read them in a day and have to wait another ten years for the next one.”—Zadie Smith    

“Ware provides one of the year’s best arguments for the survival of print…the spectacular, breathtaking visual splendor make this one of the year’s standout graphic novels.” –Publisher Weekly, starred review

"Chris Ware's Building Stories is the rarest kind of brilliance; it is simultaneously heartbreaking, hilarious, shockingly intimate and deeply insightful. There isn't a graphic artist alive or dead who has used the form this wonderfully to convey the passage of time, loneliness, longing, frustration or bliss.  It is the reader's choice where and how to begin this monumental work—the only regret you will have in starting it is knowing that it will end." –J. J. Abrams

“You could call Stories a game-changer, except so few besides Ware could ever construct such a retro-aesthetic feat.” –Washington Post, “Top 10 Graphic Novels of 2012”  

“A treasure trove of graphic artworks—they’re too complex to be called comics—from Ware, master of angst, alienation, sci-fi and the crowded street . . . A dazzling document.” —Kirkus, starred review  

“Ware has been consistently pushing the boundaries for what the comics format can look like and accomplish as a storytelling medium…More than anything, though, this graphic novel mimics the kaleidoscopic nature of memory itself—fleeting, contradictory, anchored to a few significant moments, and a heavier burden by the day. In terms of pure artistic innovation, Ware is in a stratosphere all his own.”
Booklist, starred review

“So far ahead of the game that it tempts you to find fault just to prove that a human made it…Ware is remarkably deft at balancing the demands of fine art, where sentimentality is an error, and those of storytelling, where emotion is everything.” –New York Times Book Review

“Ware’s innovative graphic novel deepens and enriches the form by breaking it apart…tackles universal themes including art, sex, family and existential loneliness in a way that’s simultaneously playful and profound.” –The New York Times Book Review, “The 10 Best Books of 2012” 
 
Building Stories is the graphic novel of the season or perhaps the year, a story that must be experienced rather than read . . . Ware takes visual storytelling to a new level of both beauty and despair in a work people will be talking about for a long time.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review 

"This is more than a book; it's a profusion of printed paper....told in Ware's instantly recognizable style, with panels so silent and perfectly composed, they're reminiscent of stained-glass windows."—TIME

“The standout work of the year is Chris Ware’s breathtaking treasure chest.” –Boston Globe gift guide 
 
Building Stories is a momentous event in the world of comics—the unusual format of Ware’s book is bound to help redefine yet again what a “graphic novel” can be.” –New Yorker blog   

Surely, no comic book artist has ever created anything quite like this: a glorious treasure box of sorts containing books, pamphlets, leaflets and old-timey newspapers - all of which tell of the daily struggles of the residents of a Chicago building. Heartbreak and flashes of hope illuminate even the tiniest of panels.” –San Francisco Chronicle Gift Guide 
 
“Pages of extraordinary inventiveness…Throughout Building Stories, Ware’s attention to the awkward physicality, the constant humiliations and cruelties of human existence is as precise and as brutally funny as it is in his previous work.”New York Review of Books 
 
“Ware’s Building Stories is a stunning reminder of the capabilities of print, telling a tender and crushing tale of missed opportunities.” –The Huffington Post

”Its brilliance is not debatable…The components of Building Stories can be read and combined and recombined in any order, producing chance connections and beautiful resonances—very much the way life itself does.” –TIME Top Ten in Fiction

“Chris Ware is one of the true modern masters of the sequential art medium and an absolute artisan when it comes to showing the beauty of an ugly truth…It’s truly masterful storytelling that will be a unique experience for each reader and something that would be impossible in any other medium than print…Each of us in our own way is desperately searching for our own sense of meaning, accomplishment, and self-worth, but anyone who has ever felt their creativity suppressed—or really anyone who has ever clung onto the good in their bad relationship (or the bad in their good relationship)—will see a lot of truth nestled in these almost magical pages. “ –New York Journal of Books   

“Stunningly innovative… Basically a book-in-a-box, Building Stories is spread among 14 different pieces — 15 if you count the illustrated box itself — ranging in size and shape from small and booklet-size to a Little Golden Book-style hardback to a game-board-size fold-out board. All of which might just add up to a clever and daring experiment if Ware’s characters weren’t so alive, his art so precise and pleasing and his story so vital and heart-wrenching.” –Vancouver Sun 

“Apparently, no one ever told Chris Ware that print is dead. Or maybe they did and this is his fantastic rebuttal. Ware, the master behind "Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth," has created a batch of sad, highly detailed comics with "Building Stories." The catch is the presentation. Inside this oversized box are 14 different stories -- some are traditional books of various sizes, others are magazines, newspapers and small pamphlets. This isn't a graphic novel. It's a library ready to be explored.” –Minneapolis Star-Tribune 

“Ware masterfully tells the stories in ways that are clear and concise, but also astonishingly creative, bending the progression of images around pages large and small…The actual writing is wonderful, both in the measured, sharply observed lives of the different characters, but also in the use of language. Ware knows when thick overstatement in the narration will add a comic edge and also how to shape meandering inner thought processes to get at the contradictory cores of the people on the page. He stuffs his pages with images, and they all have rich ideas behind them.. Building Stories is daunting, exhausting and grand. Like Art Spiegelman’s Maus from two decades earlier, it so completely transcends any attempt to contain its importance to solely the field of comics that it announces itself as nothing less than a vital piece of literature, no qualifiers necessary or welcome.” –Spectrum Culture 

“Ware’s latest has the makings of a modern classic…At times Ware's ‘great book’ feels like it could be about anyone's life. Other times, it doesn't feel like a book at all. It's a keepsake box full of things you won't want to forget.” –Entertainment Weekly, A+ grade 

“A visionary boxed collection…a stunning triumph for graphic novels as a literature all its own.” –Publishers Weekly Comics World  

“An eye-popping astonishment.” –St. Louis Post-Dispatch  
   
“The book is at its most sublime in its wordless passages. If the documents are read in the order they are packaged, Building Stories opens with a brilliant, silent fugue that tells a story in images alone…a triumph of imagination. Amid cheap disposability, Ware’s work painstakingly honors craftsmanship and originality. He is a rare breed, and his work deserves celebration and preservation…While others lament the end of books defeatedly, Ware gives us tangible reasons to delay sounding the death knoll for the printed page.” –CS Monitor 

“Remarkable...all of it is drawn in Ware's meticulous style, inked in his bright, bold colors, and written in his decidedly literary voice. This is a publishing event; I can't believe it's retailing for only 50 bucks.” –Chicago Reader  

 "Chris (Ware) really changed the playing field. After him, a lot of (cartoonists) really started to scramble and go holy (expletive), 'I think I have to try harder.'" –Seth, author of It's a Good Life If You Don't Weaken

Building Stories will only enhance the artist’s exalted status within the world of graphic literature…awe-inspiring.” –St. Louis Post-Dispatch  
 
“Quietly defies any pre-existing comic conventions. I couldn’t wait to write about how ardently I recommend this collection…The “graphic novel” misnomer masks the breadth of old and new creations compiled in this extremely innovative, fascinating anthology, a bold declaration for the wonders of pulp and ink in the digital age.” –Jenna Marotta, CBS Smart Planet 
 
“Destined to become a collector’s item.” –Vogue Gift Guide

“It’s already being hailed as a classic and it was released only Tuesday…Building Stories gorgeously expands the graphic novel form.” –Daily Beast  
 
“One of the strongest arguments against the death of printed paper…Ware’s genius lies in telling of everyday insecurities and pleasures and various mundania that make us identify with the characters.” –Singapore Times

“Ware has single-handedly re-defined the possibilities of the graphic novel form. His work is complex, serious and stunningly beautiful…Building Stories is a rich, mature work that defies categorization and must be experienced to be fully understood.” –WICN interview
 
“This week marked the release of Chris Ware’s unbelievably wonderful graphic novel Building Stories, which we (and everyone else) have been awaiting with bated breath for many months. The graphic publishing event of the year, the book is truly a world you can get lost in… a total triumph, an immersive story that you can literally (well almost) immerse yourself in.” –Flavorwire.com

“Intelligent, carefully crafted and emphatically not for everyone.” –Paste Magazine  
 
“There simply will not be a more beautifully packaged book this year than Chris Ware’s Building Stories, the latest from the master graphic novelist.” –Salon 
 
“What sets this latest work apart is its format—and how fundamentally that format shapes the reader's experience…[a] precise, colorful, intricate and ultimately beautiful book.” –NPR. Org 
 
“Chris Ware’s new Building Stories confirms his place alongside Nabokov and David Foster Wallace in the pantheon of masterful mindfuck writers...Ware’s artistic skills are unmatched.” –Philadelphia City Paper 
 
“What is surprising is how quickly Ware can dismantle one’s preconceived notions of genre, leading the reader far past traditional definitions of what literature—or comics—is and isn’t, and deep into his fictional characters’ inner lives…For readers it’s a veritable treasure chest, a deeply layered narrative that can turn, as those familiar with Ware’s work have come to expect, on the subtlest of gestures, on the simplest poetry of a character’s heartbreaking monologue. But for writers it’s a rare opportunity to see the architecture of storytelling stripped bare, to witness an artist at the top of his game as he not only writes his way through the inner lives of his characters, but also transforms his adjectives and adverbs into a stunning visual narrative.” –Poets and Writers 
 
“Ware is the rare cartoonist whose art is matched not just by formalist experimentation but also by his storytelling abilities (and, relatedly, his empathy for his fellow human beings)… Building Stories is the best yet distillation of his talents.” –thesnipenews.com
Building Stories is one of the most compelling and emotionally resonant works I have read in years…never before, perhaps, has the mundanity of daily life been given such weight and such beauty…Building Stories is a graphic novel of the ordinary that sees the extraordinary at the heart of our day-to-day existence…It’s the best thing I’ve read this year.” –Knoxville Metropulse 
 
Ware highlights relevant threads in multiple places, teasing full stories that he reveals elsewhere and guiding you masterfully to assemble the whole picture while still letting you feel smart. It may leave you with a hard little knot in your chest about the human condition (birth, maturation, possibly procreation and death, all in a short span and with little to show for it but brief moments of animal joy), but it also somehow makes you enjoy the knowledge.” –Paste Magazine

“If there’s one release this year that people will be asking you about, odds are it’ll be this one…There’s no way to get ready for Ware beyond clearing one’s calendar, so yes: it’s time to start calling babysitters.” —Flavorwire

“Let’s get the obvious out of the way. Building Stories is the single greatest argument for the continuation of print comics that could possibly be conceived. Building Stories could not exist in any other format and retain its power and beauty. It is a wholly immersive experience which cannot be imitated nor duplicated in a digital format, not matter how powerful the processor or how many dpi your screen resolution…Building Stories is unlike anything else I have experienced. It is more than a book. It is more than a story. It is a glimpse into the lives of people. Building Stories should be in everyone’s collection, not just as a work of art, but as a notice of the potential that still exists in storytelling.” –Stumptown Trade Review

“I can guarantee that you, too, will feel an overwhelming sense of wonderment and religious-grade awe as you open the Building Stories box. It’s as though you have unearthed god’s blueprints for humanity or a treasure trove of someone’s very orderly outsider art. This thing, whatever it is, is straight-up super beautiful, and the experience of reading it is like unwrapping birthday presents and choosing your own adventure all at once. It is the joy of reading incarnate, and I don’t think I’ve experienced it so intensely since I was a kid. Building Stories really is a landmark achievement. It mounts a compelling defense for survival of print—like Kidd said, great art can be great business. But more than that,Building Stories offers a greater truth about life: even when it’s dark and unpleasant, oh man, it is something to behold.” –The Rumpus

“Chris Ware has done it again! Ware continues to dazzle and amaze his fans with breathtaking groundbreaking work! There’s never been a book like this before! A new standard is set!” –The Comics Journal  

“A feat of ambitious storytelling that doesn’t shy away from the microscopically detailed character study that has set Ware’s work apart his entire career.” –Slate, Cartoonist Studio Prize for Best Graphic Novel of the Year 

“Takes Ware’s approach to visual storytelling to a new level of game-changing…Chris Ware’s stories are the sheet music that we read to hear music in our hearts.” –Lit New City    

“I’ve never seen anything like Chris Ware’s Building Stories, and chances are you haven’t either, at least in the context of comics. Building Stories is aptly named—it’s not so much a comic book, or even a series of comic books, as it is a set of parts for making your own stories out of the materials provided...The art is fantastically inventive.” –Playback St. Louis 
 
Building Stories will forever distinguish [Ware] as one of the preeminent figures in comic book narrative and illustration…Ware’s crisp, detailed style is at the heart of the illustrative body of the work. The line work is impeccably smooth, and rich colors of all hues radiate from the page. Gorgeous renditions of blooming spring flowers and rain-soaked leaves are tempered by somber and contemplative scenes of half-lit domestic interiors, which are drawn out with such bleak details as single beds, accumulating dirt, and molding scraps of food. And in that uniquely and traditionally Ware way, these initially humble and simplistic images use their apparent quietness to usher the reader into the world of the text.” –Chicago Maroon  

“Feels very good and looks even better…the illustrations of a genius unleashed by mixed media, ultimately making us feel good about our losses and our loneliness, our dreams and our expectations.A magnificent undertaking by any measure.” –Counterpunch  
 
“Both a remarkable physical object and a moving exploration of how the spaces we live in affect us.” –Entertainment Weekly  
 
“Ware’s masterful project balances thoughtful storytelling, aesthetic beauty, scrupulous detail, and fancies both lofty and earthbound. The insular but lush world of lonely people that emerges is one of the year’s most affecting.” –Time Out New York, Best of 2012
 
“No other graphic novel compares to Building Stories. Taken merely as a story, it is insightful, compelling, and evocative. Ware’s drawings and innovative design raise Building Stories to another level. One that results in a rich and rewarding read, and that demonstrates the full scope a graphic novel can achieve.” –AARP blog

“Monumental.” –Pittsburg Post-Gazette  

 “A work of art…Ware has an extraordinary instinct for the empathic illumination of banality. He makes plain—beautifully and unsentimentally plain—the fact that nothing is more ordinary than to be lonely and despairing and dying. Perhaps this sounds depressing. It isn’t. Only bad art is depressing; good art, no matter what its subject, is exhilarating. Building Stories takes everyday sadness and makes something very beautiful of it, something powerfully human and true. That is a rare gift, and I’m very thankful to have received it.” –The Millions 

“Ware’s inventive storytelling techniques make the best possible case for the physical book as an integral part of storytelling.” –The Stranger

“Utterly unique…For readers it’s a veritable treasure chest, a deeply layered narrative that can turn, as those familiar with Ware’s work have come to expect, on the subtlest of gestures, on the simplest poetry of a character’s heartbreaking monologue. But for writers it’s a rare opportunity to see the architecture of storytelling stripped bare, to witness an artist at the top of his game as he not only writes his way through the inner lives of his characters, but also transforms his adjectives and adverbs into a stunning visual narrative.” –Poets and Writers 
 
“Literally the Best Thing Ever: Chris Ware. His books are as big and as small as the world.” –Rookie Magazine 
 
“With the release of Building Stories, Chris Ware has created a graphic novel that is the perfect antidote to our distracted times, a work of art that forces you to consider it, not while elbow-warring on the bus or during other transitory in-between moments, but while keeping things stationary in a quiet place where you feel comfortable having your world rocked.” –KQED online review

“The work reads as if Ware were painting a mural in illustration of a series of philosophical issues: what it means to love, what it means to be alone, what it means to be part of a social construct, what it means to be an inanimate object, what it means to be a city, and even, at certain particularly poignant moments, what it means to be a color. And as such, the title is an understatement: the real story told here is the story of the world, and how we live in it.” –Full Stop.net
 
“Awe-inducing…As usual with Ware, the vérité drawing style is impeccable, every mark and color just so, the frames natural and exquisite.” –L Magazine 

“A beautiful collection of cartoons…Building Stories begs not merely to be displayed but to redecorate your house.” –Newsday  
 
“I have now spent a week in sloppy communion with Building Stories and am ready to declare it one of the most important pieces of art I have ever experienced. I also sort of want to kill myself…..Much can and will be said about Ware’s decision, along with Pantheon’s, to publish such an inconvenient product, and how it flies in the face of publishing trends, which veer, ever more desperately, toward the convenience of electronic reading. As someone who self-publishes books, and refuses to make them available on devices, I applaud everyone involved—even my children, who eventually left me alone to pore over what they called my “weirdo picture books.” But what makes Building Stories monumental isn’t its unorthodox format. It’s Ware’s ruthless and tender pursuit of undisguised emotion. His work is brutal in the way all great art is. I can’t wait to experience it again.”—Steve Almond, The New Republic
 
“It’s in Ware’s empathy and humanity that he distinguishes himself, and you’ll find yourself drawn back to his nameless characters time and time again...As for where to start and end your journey, Building Stories has one great advantage over real life: you can dip back into the box and experience it a million different ways.” –Monkey Bicycle

“Even if you're not a comics reader, you've probably heard of Chris Ware, and for a good reason: He has redefined what comics can do…Ware has crafted a springboard for his inventiveness, his intelligence, and his thoughtful approach to tacking issues of family, marriage, friendship, loneliness, aging and loss. Through his mastery of comics' potential, and the wealth of ways that images and words can interact, Ware has invented methods of moving through time that neither books nor films can match…Building Stories is not only important, it's fun to read.” –NPR Critics' List Summer 2013 

About the Author

CHRIS WARE is widely acknowledged as the most gifted and beloved cartoonist of his generation by both his mother and seven-year-old daughter. His Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth won the Guardian First Book Award and was listed as one of the "100 Best Books of the Decade" by The Times (London) in 2009. An irregular contributor to This American Life and The New Yorker (where some of the pages of this book first appeared) his original drawings have been exhibited in the Whitney Biennial, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and in piles behind his work table in Oak Park, Illinois.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By The Phantome Drool on May 20 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Initially, I was quite taken this series of fragmented life stories and the unique way they are presented. The art work is engrossing, the production is amazing and the story lines start off in an intriguing manner. I read this entire project in one sitting which may temper this next comment, after a while, the once endearing characters become frustratingly neurotic and self-centered to the point it is hard to care for any them. Every character (except the cat) winds up crippled with indecision and over-analysis of decisions made. Even the florist has anxiety that the flowers feel pain when their stems are trimmed, as an example. By the end, the inspection of every thought, action and word is just plain tiresome.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Curious Chuck on Dec 9 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jimmy Corrigan was quite something already and this book (if it can be called a book) stretches the boundaries of the graphic novel genre. Beautiful, poignant, maybe confusing at times but definitely worth the price.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 133 reviews
96 of 100 people found the following review helpful
Stunning--print is not dead Oct. 2 2012
By sevenonseven - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have been looking forward to Chris Ware's newest installation for a while--ever since I picked up Jimmy Corrigan years ago. I've followed his Acme Novelty Library series, as well as newspaper/magazine publications when I could catch them. All these bits and pieces of Ware's work only increased my anticipation of his next long book. Building Stories is what I had wanted, and so, so much more. I will attempt to refrain from hyperbole in this review, but if you've seen or read Building Stories, you already know that it's not quite possible.

What originally captivated me about Ware's work were his almost obsessive attention to detail, beautiful and precise artwork that didn't look too 'cartoonish' (whatever that means), and the digressions from the main storyline (frequently in the form of cut-outs and paper dolls, which from what I understand are actually accurate and do function as described--such as the stereoscope and 'library' bookshelf; though, I could never, ever bring myself to cut up a book, let alone one of Ware's). I can't say that I have a great grasp of Ware's work in the context of other graphic novels, as I have never been a particularly avid reader of the genre; however, this attests to the ability of Ware's work to cross these well-established (and often dismissed) boundaries. To simply call Building Stories a graphic novel, a book, a novel, a comic, or really any one genre would be a great injustice that ignores what I believe a currently unparalleled form. A reader does not have to consider him or herself a fan of any of a particular genre to enjoy Building Stories; it is the story of memory, loss, trauma, and how these manifest themselves in everyday life that should draw readers into its pages. I would even say that this stands up to any work of literature, regardless of form or genre.

It's first striking how large the box is. Immediately, it gave me an impression of its heft (both in weight and in accomplishment). Opening it is truly like being granted a secret passage into the minds and memories of the characters, and the non-linear format of the various 'pieces' mimics how both we and the characters access those memories. The first piece I read was a hardcover book that instantly took me back to my childhood, as it's reminiscent of the pressed-cardboard children's books that had a gold spine, and an inside cover with ornate illustrations of the publisher's popular characters with a space to write your name. I can't remember the publisher, but I know I had many books like this. This is exactly what makes Ware and Building Stories so outstanding: their ability to skillfully draw out an emotion from the reader that parallels the storyline. It does not feel like a cheap ploy of meta-fiction, which can be a danger of 'postmodern' fiction, but that the details are all so understated and do not scream, 'hey, look at me! Aren't I so clever?' helps bring a level of sincerity and genuine connection to the whole experience. With something that could easily wander into pretension, it never seems to cross that line (however, I now must admit it seems near impossible to write a review on it without taking on this air of pretension that Ware successfully avoids, haha).

I spent several years living in Chicago, so the building and landscapes are excitingly familiar--I have a special, personal attachment to the building of Building Stories that I relish while reading. But really, it doesn't matter where I've lived; as long as I (or any reader) have lived a life with love, loss, regret, loneliness and varying degrees of human interaction, Building Stories will be a work that resonates in and even echoes the hopes, dreams, fears, and banality of a life at once both extraordinary and mundane.
71 of 74 people found the following review helpful
Reader's Guide to "Building Stories" & A Critique Oct. 29 2012
By David R. Anderson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Reader, this "book" comes in a box 16" long x 11 1/2" wide x 1 5/8th" deep. For best results, approach it as follows:

Step One. Before unwrapping, turn the box over and read the text carefully. Think about it.

Step Two. Open the box, remove the fourteen items that make up its contents, place each one on the floor -- most tables are not big enough -- as shown in pictograph.Then...

Step 3. Read below.

Chris Ware's new graphic novel "Building Stories" is made to order for game players with a literary bent. Call the game "Follow the Story Line - If you Can!" The author provides a pictograph on the bottom of this box full of treasureWare with, he says "suggestions as to [where] appropriately [to] set down, forget, or completely lose" its contents. Accepting the challenge, I cleared a space in my study and set about putting the pieces down as shown in the pictograph. In the process I discovered that Mr. Ware had pulled a couple of fast ones. It requires duplicates of four of the pieces to match all the images in the pictograph. Moreover, in my set, one of the pieces has no exact mate.

The story follows the protagonist from "wondering if she will ever move from the rented close quarters of lonely young adulthood to the mortgaged expanse of love and marriage". I'll call her "Chris" -- after the author because he gives her no name. So the trick is to match the pieces of Chris' life to its trajectory from young Chicago art student to Oak Park soccer Mom. It took a bit of doing to come up with the right order for placing the fourteen pieces in the trajectory. If you try it, leave a comment. It will be fun to see if we agree. As Ware suggests, the place to start is the book shown top left in the pictograph and the place to end is the piece titled "Disconnect" at the lower right. Among the rewards for your effort, a nice surprise as you come to the end.

What about the novel as story? Is it as good as the graphic art that has gone into it? It starts with a nice touch. The initial point of view is that of the one hundred-year-old three-story Chicago apartment building where Chris lives on the top floor. The building ticks off one interesting fact after another from its 100 year history: "301 tenants, 178 trysts, 469 feelings of being watched, 29 broken hearts" (including, one assumes, Chris's.), 104 writers, 4 criminals" and the list goes on.

Then each of the building's occupants has a say starting with the land lady (first floor), the unhappily married couple on the second floor and then Chris. Ware does this neatly, going from one floor's occupants to the next as the day, September 23, 2000, goes by, clock hour by clock hour. Then, he returns to the building as narrator: "Better to take each day as it comes," I tell myself, "and revel in the remaining time of my old woman, my married couple and my girl." The last page fast forwards to 3.p.m. April 20th, 2006, to reveal Chris driving by with her baby daughter in the car. She notices a for sale sign in the building's window and thinks back to her days there: "God I was so wretched and miserable when I lived there." There are five vignettes on the back cover, the central one showing a wrecking ball taking the first bite out of the old building.

This is the way Ware tells his story. You have to stay alert, no fast flipping through the pages or you'll miss a key fact. The novel hides its secrets in this way. Part of the reader's pleasure comes in discovering them, in keeping track of the convoluted story line. So there's a start. I'll let you take it from there.

In his introductory note on the back of the box Ware writes, "the book is sure to sympathize with the crushing sense of life wasted, opportunities missed and creative dreams dashed which afflict the middle-and upper-class literary public." So, to answer my question, judged by the goal Ware set for himself, the novel as story is as good as the art.

End note. Book arts, the graphic design elements that add texture and delight to the printed page, are in vogue. Chris Ware is in good part responsible for this development. His 2002 break-out book, "Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth" (Pantheon), embellished by one of the decade's most wondrous book jackets, helped bring about the new regard for the arts of the book. The jacket unfolds to reveal, on the inside, a short graphic history of Chicago. The endpapers are equally ingenious. Another of my favorites is "Diary of an Amateur Photographer A Mystery" by Graham Rawle (1998, Penguin). Both books are still available on the Internet.
36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Amazingly Affordable Piece of Art Oct. 2 2012
By Kevin Kelly - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you're looking for something gorgeous and enigmatic to decorate your home with, look no further than Chris Ware's Building Stories. This beautiful boxed set of items from Ware contains 14 different books, booklets, magazines, newspapers, and pamphlets, all in Ware's signature, hyper-detailed style. It's in a fairly large, yet attractive box that resembles a board game from the 1960s, and contains a treasure trove of items within. Ware is one of my favorite artists working today, and this boxed set of wonder continues his streak of putting out fantastic and unpredictable artwork. Definitely a must-have for Ware fans, or lovers of cartoons and graphic design.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
not my favorite book by this artist Feb. 8 2013
By Michael Cohen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I like Chris Ware's work quite a bit but found this book to be a bloated mess. The best parts of this story are in Acme Novelty Library 16 and 18 and that's what I would recommend for purchase.

If you're looking for your first Ware Book the Jimmy Corrigan collection is an excellent place to start.
24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
"BRILLIANT, STUNNING, ENJOYABLE!" Oct. 2 2012
By Geraldine Ahearn - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Chris Ware always comes through and aims to please as a talented writer, and an amazing artist. This treasure chest of graphic artwork is delivered in a beautiful boxed set of items, including 14 unique books. One can become mesmerized by his gorgeous art, and display his works in different places of your choice. This wonderful treasure is a great gift for yourself, a friend, or a family member. I immediately thought of a birthday gift, or Christmas gift for someone special. They will enjoy every moment, and appreciate the fine art that it represents. For the icing on the cake, it should cost much more than it does. It certainly is worth much more than it sells for, and many would agree. Chris Ware's work is Outstanding, and I always crave for more. Highly Recommended to anyone who enjoys the works of a Great artist and writer!


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