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Building Stories Hardcover – October 2, 2012


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Editorial Reviews

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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Ware has been consistently pushing the boundaries for what the comics format can look like and accomplish as a storytelling medium. Here he does away with the book format—a thing between two covers that has a story that begins and ends—entirely in favor of a huge box containing 14 differently sized, formatted, and bound pieces: books, pamphlets, broadsheets, scraps, and even a unfoldable board that would be at home in a Monopoly box. The pieces, some previously published in various places and others new for this set, swarm around a Chicago three-flat occupied by an elderly landlady, a spiteful married couple, and a lonely amputee (there’s also a bee bumbling around in a rare display of levity). The emotional tenor remains as soul-crushing and painfully insightful as any of Ware’s work, but it’s really insufficient to talk about what happens in anything he does. It’s all about the grind and folly of everyday life but presented in an exhilarating fashion, each composition an obsessively perfect alignment of line, shape, color, and perspective. More than anything, though, this graphic novel (if it can even be called that) 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. --Ian Chipman
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Product Details

  • Series: Building Stories
  • Hardcover: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; Box Pck edition (October 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375424334
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375424335
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 12 x 16.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (132 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,654 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

CHRIS WARE is the author of Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth and the annual progenitor of the amateur periodical the ACME Novelty Library. An irregular contributor to The New Yorker and The Virginia Quarterly Review,Ware was the first cartoonist chosen to regularly serialize an ongoing story in The New York Times Magazine, in 2005-2006. He edited the thirteenth issue of McSweeney's Quarterly Concern in 2004 as well as Houghton Mifflin's Best American Comics for 2007, and his work was the focus of an exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago in 2006. Ware lives in Oak Park, Illinois, with his wife, Marnie, a high-school science teacher, and their daughter, Clara.

Customer Reviews

This is the way Ware tells his story.
David R. Anderson
This is a gift for my boyfriend who is a comic artist and has already been a long-time fan of Chris Ware.
Virginia Houk
All these bits and pieces of Ware's work only increased my anticipation of his next long book.
sevenonseven

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

96 of 100 people found the following review helpful By sevenonseven on October 2, 2012
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.
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71 of 74 people found the following review helpful By David R. Anderson on October 29, 2012
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.
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Kelly on October 2, 2012
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.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Michael Cohen on February 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm not as impressed by this book as the other reviewers.

Pro's: The packaging and multiple-y sized and formatted books contained within are one of the more interesting expansions of the graphic novel form that I've seen in quite a while. Several of the stories, particularly the land-lady are quite brilliant. The over-size full-page illustrations of trees and suburban chicago streets are sublime (a format that might make a nice future book) and the recurring lllustrations of flowers and fruit are quite beautiful and cosmic as well. The one pagers of the girls life in the flower shop are depressingly good and really get to the tragedy and beauty in the ordinary I think Ware wants to express in this book.

Con's: The story-line in Ware's last few books have been a bit unfocused and droogy and this one is too, though its more of a return to form. The main problem is two-fold. The lead character isn't very interesting and her life-development and revelations aren't either.

Also Ware's main strength is as a graphic artist. One of the reasons the Jimmy Corrigan book was so brilliant is that Ware let the pictures say emotional volumes that couldn't be put it into words. But in this woman's story there are words ... lots and lots of words. Much more words about her story and feelings than you need or want to know. After reading this I'm not sure expository writing is really this artist's strength. I understand that Chris Ware is trying to make real life the subject of the graphic novel instead of heroes and villains -- but this territory has been covered by a number of underground artists particularly harvey pekar with a humor, brevity that this book could use some more of.
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