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Building Stories

4.25 of 5 stars 4.25  ·  rating details  ·  3,763 ratings  ·  522 reviews
After years of sporadic work on other books and projects and following the almost complete loss of his virility, it's here: a new graphic novel by Chris Ware.

Building Stories imagines the inhabitants of a three-story Chicago apartment building: a 30-something woman who has yet to find someone with whom to spend the rest of her life; a couple, possibly married, who wonder i...more
Hardcover, 260 pages
Published October 2nd 2012 by Pantheon
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Community Reviews

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The title Ware chose for this wonderful assemblage of art work and words makes me think about the many ways in which authors tell their tales. It also prompts thoughts on how we size people up. Ware’s creation gives us plenty to say about story-building and profiling. Context, the narrative arc, appeals to our emotions, structuring, and connections among characters and to our empathetic selves all enter into it.

You’ve no doubt seen the box that houses the contents. In it are 14 individual bookl...more
MJ Nicholls
Beautiful box. Beautiful books and newspapers and foldout strips. An epic of the everyday. The graphic novel response to Ulysses, with all the humour and ebullience removed. Like B.S. Johnson’s book-in-a-box The Unfortunates, each of the separate components can be read in either order, and like that fine novel, each deal in part with loss and devastation and loneliness (and devastating loneliness). The protagonist of this novel is a miserable neurotic woman with an artificial shank whose entire...more
Seth Hahne
[Note: this review looks much better on the site from which it comes. And has more pictures.]

Building Stories by Chris Ware
[There are an unexpected number of grocery shots in this book.]

Back in March 2011, during that year's Tournament of Books, I was introduced to what might be best described as a concept book. Nox is Anne Carson's literary project to unearth the identity of her recently-departed, long-estranged brother. Instead of pages of text bound between a front and back cover, Nox is a box containing a robust accordio...more
Eddie Watkins
While I comport myself in a solid even-keeled way, topped by a serious face, inside I ride waves of turbulent emotions. My inner moods pendulum between absolute cosmic bleakness and star-hopping ecstasy, with an occasional glide through stretches of dull unspecified sadness. The rest is routine involvement in those things I enjoy doing, and so could be called happiness I suppose, though looking at me few would know.

The stretches of dull unspecified sadness are the least interesting to me, thoug...more

Check out that photo above that I stole from Amazon. Isn't it pretty? It's a whole bunch of reading devices that fit into a colorful box. There's a hardbound book, there's a Little Golden Books-style book, a couple newspaper-sized comics, and several doodads and even two or three various whatchamajigs. It weighs in at six pounds.

This is the incredibly creative Building Stories by Chris Ware. In it, the reader discovers the lives of (mainly) four characters who share the same building. They're al...more
David Schaafsma
I just finished this brilliant, brilliant "book" (that comes in a game [and that is relevant, the idea of play, of reading and play] box) larger than a Monopoly box, with various sizes and colors and shapes of books and magazines and flyers and a children's book and a game board... Check it out, I think it is one of the most important events in the history of graphic literature, an instant classic. .. but it is not all play... He is not writing about superheroes in this graphic novel, he is writ...more
Sep 05, 2013 Alex rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
A collection of interwoven graphic stories meant to be shuffled and read in random order, Ware's Building Stories has gotten a lot of attention in 2013 as comic writing continues to sidle awkwardly past puberty like a wimpy kid hoping to get past a group of dicks with their hats backwards before they notice him and take his lunch money. Metaphors, bitch!

It's reasonably effective. The lead story here, about a young woman who's convinced her life is awful and then later is convinced it's awful in...more
Gary Anderson
Where do we start? What do we do next? How do we make sense out of all this? With Chris Ware’s Building Stories, as with life, the answer seems to be, “Just keep going. It will all come together, probably.”

Building Stories is a challenging, rewarding reading experience. I can’t say book; I can’t say graphic novel; I can’t say comic. None of those words quite fit Building Stories. Chris Ware’s newest work is the story of woman’s life, and it comes in what looks like a game box, similar to Monopol...more
Jeanette (jema)
First impressions - Wow this is heavy!
Last impressions - Still heavy.
To label this as 'comics' as I did here is wrong on so many levels. But it is the word I picked for graphic novels, even though this is outside of that shelf too. This is like a box of melancholy, slices of lives lived in an apartment building in just on the outskirts of Chicago.

We follow the lives of the old landlady, the amputee woman dreaming of love, and of a young couple disappointed in how partnership turned out to be so...more
First Second Books
I finally got my hands on BUILDING STORIES and was disappointed to discover that all of the reviews that called it a "ground-breaking new format where the reader connects the pieces to assemble an apartment building full of interlocking stories" weren't literal. Guys, I really thought this book was a kit to build an actual model building! I'm so bummed!
Michael Seidlinger
Inspiration, insanity, and sadness in one big box.

In essence:

How to describe this strange yet wonderful box of loveliness? Building stories is odd, sweet, sad, beautiful and quixotic; yet that barely scratches the surface. Made up of what I can only guess are “chapters” in varied formats, with no true end or beginning, its sprawling size is a bit overwhelming straight out of the box. Yet the melancholy story of the tenants of an old building is fascinating despite (or, maybe because of) the fact that it’s a cartoon. It is an intimate look at the human con...more
Building Stories is a sprawling, obtuse, non-linear mess of a book, if it can even be called a book or any sort of unified narrative. It centers mostly around the life of a perfectly average woman who, like most of Ware's characters, spends most of her life being miserable. If you haven't heard of it or seen it, it's a set of 14 "distinctively discrete books, booklets, magazines, newspapers and pamphlets" that hails from the author of Jimmy Corrigan (probably the best comic book I've ever read),...more
A plot synopsis really doesn't do Building Stories justice. Chris Ware is telling a pretty simple story here - tracking the lives of a small collection of Chicago apartment dwellers over a 10 year period or so, with occasional flights of fancy in which the building itself is a character. Oh, and there's also a side story involving a bee named Branford. If you've read Ware's most well known comic, Jimmy Corrigan, you'll notice a lot of similarities: most prominently the trademark art style - intr...more
I've not read many graphic novels where the protagonist didn't wear a cape or their underwear outside of their pants. With that confession out of the way I'd like to say that Chris Ware has done something special with the medium here.
His artwork is not lush; in fact it has a geometrical quality. Most of the panels are tiny, and large objects such as the building just provide another opportunity to showcase a lot of small panels.

The real story here is how Ware is able to use the compact panels...more
Duncan Wilson
Unique. It’s very hard to describe this piece by Chris ware. Beautiful is possibly the best word. Both in terms of its style and its emotional depth. We get glimpses into the lives to the people that live on three floors of an old tenement building (as well as thoughts from the building itself and Branford the best bee in the world). all these lives intertwine with each other in a selection of wonderfully crafted items printed in notebooks, newspapers and even game boards :)
The people come acros...more
Jason Coleman
Indisputably impressive. As an act of design, this is a staggering job. But the narrative stops at the tips of too many icebergs; the back stories you keep expecting don't ever materialize. I agree with not giving the reader everything—leaving some things unexplained or only half-glimpsed enhances the sense of life hurtling stupidly along—but spread over fourteen godforsaken pieces of art (shaped like 'zines, pamphlets, newspapers, or simple books), the conception overwhelms the story. Here's yo...more
An amazing piece of art/literature that works on so many levels, absolutely brilliant and affecting and beautiful. From the box to each of the books/object within, each element works together and independently to build enough story for many years' worth of rewarding re-reads...
I have a hard time reading graphic novels. I blame the fact that I learned to read at an early age, which made me skip right over the whole picture book genre and jump directly into chapter books.

So reading this was a challenge. Even more of a challenge? The pieces that make up Building Stories are not ORDERED in any way! For someone like me, who needs to be given directions, and likes well-defined beginnings and endings, this was mind-boggling! I didn't even know how to start reading this when...more
Very odd. Made me impatient at times but then again I feel that about a lot of books. I know I'd like to go back to some of the bits and pieces again. It captures the rhythm of everyday life in a story presented to us in an endless loop whose beginning and end it is hard to determine much like the book's physical structure itself. I do like it but i don't know, the small panels and the odd booklets get hard to deal with after a while. I sometimes wished the physical book itself was less unwieldy...more
It's hard to know what to say about this. On the one hand, it's a fascinating experiment: fourteen comics pieces, in various formats (including fold-out game board) and sizes (right up to newspaper size for two of the pieces), with no designated reading order. Therefore, readers to some extent "build" the story themselves by selecting the reading order. Ware probably has no equal when it comes to innovative page design. Many ways you might imagine a page being constructed or the panels being seq...more
Tuğçe Sevin
It comes in a large rectangular cardboard box, assorted as 14 various sized booklets, pamphlets, magazines.

There is no particular order to read them in. They contain a story of the lives of residents in a three-story Chicago apartment, and they give each reader the opportunity of experiencing a different and personalized book with the same material.

As in his previous works, this one also offers very powerful and emotional stories. They follow around the four inhabitants, who are somehow connect...more
I don't know why I keep reading Chris Ware's stuff. I know I'm going to wind-up depressed when I'm done reading, but I do it anyway. Maybe that's part of his genius. His comics/graphic novels alternate between whimsy (like "Quimby the Mouse") and something in the realm of literary fiction, and I eat it up. But much like some people do with popular fiction's most famous authors (i.e. Stephen King, John Grisham, even Nicholas Sparks), Mr. Ware releases something new and I say to myself, "Must get!...more
I remember my high school art teacher telling me a story once about when Bob Dylan met the Beatles for the first time at a party. According to my art teacher, Dylan saw the Four from across a room and sneered, "You guys have so much power, and you could do anything....and you choose to make this."

And in no way, obviously, could anything Chris Ware does be worthy of such vitriol. It's too smart, too intricate, too multi-faceted -- a monument to what craft, focus, and workmanship can create. And w...more
The positive: I enjoy Chris Ware's artwork style. I also appreciate his typography talents, and his use of some very beautiful cursive style lettering (I like the cursive capitals he uses in some of the text passages). I liked the architectural style of the exploded view of the apartment building- it reminded me of lego assembly instructions, and you could see sort of the mapping of the rooms of each floor.
Also the fruit (in tidy rows and very uniform) pictures are great. More of that, please!

Os cómics de Chris Ware son para ver, para ler e para tocar. Son obxectos especiais, dá gusto telos na man, e son un reto, cheos de recursos que os fan intraducibles a outra linguaxe que non sexa a do cómic. Pero non é un virtuoso, ou non só. "Building stories", construír historias ou as historias dun edificio. Un mosaico de narracións en 14 pezas sen orde predefinida.O que Ware presenta é un experimento sobre como contar de maneira fragmentaria, chea de simetrías, elipses, xogos visuais, ás vec...more
Corrie M.
This book comes in 14 piece - my favorite was the one that looked like a Little Golden Book. There is no indication regarding what order to read the assorted pieces in - but I don't think it matters. This is a non-linear story, without any great conflict or resolution.

It's magic, though! I suppose I am biased in favor of graphic novels. What story there is centers around the current, future, and former residents of a Chicago apartment building. What story there is is our own story - life, in al...more
This is life in a box - many lives, in fact, sliding around within the container as it is carried from room to room. A different story each day, perhaps, read in a different atmosphere to force different perspectives, though none of that is really needed. Each folio inside is unique, but the tales intertwine as one with all of the beauty and bitterness and mixed-bag-bounty that our own soft packages can hold. Gentle, terrible, empathic, cruel, banal, ironic, and softly humorous, Chris Ware captu...more
What would be the perfect Christmas present? It would be a big box, heavy for its size. When you opened it, it would be puzzling at first, with lots of pieces. It would take you all of Christmas day to go through it and when you were done, you would realize that you'd just begun to figure it out. For me, that's Chris Ware's remarkable work, Building Stories. Ware, by this unique format, elicits a sense of ownership and protectiveness from the reader, as she picks among the many strips, pamphlets...more
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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 London Times in 2009. An irregular contributor to This American Life and The New Yorker (where some of the pages...more
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Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth The Acme Novelty Library The Acme Novelty Library #20 Quimby The Mouse The Acme Novelty Library #16

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“The whole experience reminded me of my own 'old lady' phase that I went through in high school while I was reading Somerset Maugham... The embroidered sweaters, the costume jewelry... I remember genuinely WANTING to be old then, to act as if the business of my life was already all but over, and that I was preternaturally wise because of it...

God, the stupid things you'll do to try and meet boys...”
“Newly Found Sugary Spill: Tastes Like Dried Spit or Old Soda” 1 likes
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