Chris Ware is my favorite comic/graphic novel artist. I believe his work is a one of the strongest arguments for comics as a unique and powerful form...moreChris Ware is my favorite comic/graphic novel artist. I believe his work is a one of the strongest arguments for comics as a unique and powerful form of art, capable of presenting universal human truths and expressing thoughts and emotions in a way all other forms of art cannot. Building Stories, his latest, probably even more so.
As you may notice from the picture, Building Stories is not your every day book, it is comprised of “14 distinctively discrete books, booklets, magazines, newspapers, and pamphlets” designed to tell the story of several people and the old building they inhabit. Chris Ware believes stories don’t necessarily have to be told in a certain chronological order, so the reader is free to explore these 14 pieces-which range from huge poster like sections and medium sized books, to tiny strips-in any order they fancy, constructing their own picture at their own pace (in my case, one frenzied weekend).
This dude is like the Pessoa of comics, all existential anxieties. Fuck it, I’ll even go as far as to mention Camus and Kundera in the same breath too. Chris Ware has us struggling with each character’s struggle to find meaning and a place in the world; to find love and company and to feel less alone and lost. I know of no one in the comics’ world that manages to paint (literally and figuratively) intimacy vignettes with so much detail and depth like Ware does. Building Stories is a glimpse inside the sadness of everyday life through the lens of a regular group of people, with unexemplary lives, menial jobs and inconsequential experiences. People go to work, fall in love, break up, get married, move to new homes, have kids, or just remain alone rummaging about paths not taken in their lives and the consequence of their decisions, or lack thereof. This work is a deep exploration of the human condition, a celebration of routine and all that is mundane. So don’t expect any epic-scale events, or action packed scenes, or thrilling conspiracies, just the good ole grind of living life.
Highest fuckin’ recommendation possible, this is a masterpiece, one that I will return to frequently throughout my life. And it will make me feel loneliness every time, and thus, less alone. (less)
This is a shallow and boring book… Allende suffers from some serious flaws as a writer. There’s a story of some sorts, but it is so boring and depress...moreThis is a shallow and boring book… Allende suffers from some serious flaws as a writer. There’s a story of some sorts, but it is so boring and depressing, and it carries on for so long and in such a dry and tedious manner, it’s insufferable. There are absolutely no build-ups or excitement. When something finally happens, it comes out of the blue with no sense whatsoever (no explicit or tacit explanations are offered), and when we do actually get some sort of justification, it’s some shallow over-simplification of psychological, emotional, social or historical problems. People were unhappy because the rich abused their power, so a revolution begun. What? Seriously? Allende tries to tackle three generations and the socio-political problems of Chile at the time, building some sort of epic novel, but it simply falls flat on its ass. Not enough depth, not enough direction. Top it all off with some of the driest, least imaginative prose ever and zero critical thinking (offered by the author or required from the reader) and you’ve got a total suck fest.
And yet, the aforementioned is not even the worst quality it possesses. Oh no. What really drives me bats, the Problem, the Poison, is Allende’s portrayal of women. Women that according to Allende, are strong and independent. Being strong is not letting people run over you. Being strong is not letting a son-of-a-bitch ruin your life and your family’s again and again. Fuck, even the chicks that could look into the future would resign to their horrible fate instead of fuckin’ doing something about it. And that precisely brings us to the Main Issue: Resignation. There is this stupid notion about Latin-American women being strong because they possess this “Dignified Resignation” before misery and pain. Fuck that. That is not true and that does not make someone strong. Allende being a Latin-American woman should know that, and feel ashamed of reinforcing such a notion. Strong (Latin-American or not) woman seek change through action and thought. Through love and unselfishness. Not through “Dignified Resignation”. Shit, this really got me going…(less)
A lot has been said on this book being just a shallow bag of tricks, the work of a quirky writer with not much interesting to say. That is only half t...moreA lot has been said on this book being just a shallow bag of tricks, the work of a quirky writer with not much interesting to say. That is only half true.
While this is a book full of gimmicks, it manages to succeed because underneath all the quirks and tricks, there are sincere and moving stories, and because there are good, profound ideas where these stories can firmly lay their roots. Memory, our relationship with our past, sacrifice, friendship and love all get examined under the brilliant lens of this fresh and clearly gifted young writer.
So really, JSF’s gimmicks end up being the frosting on the cake. A big, juicy cake full of colorful and exciting characters, interesting ideas (especially those on love) and heartbreaking stories.