This is an extraordinary work. There is a whole lot of intangibles at work here... the novelty of a "novel" written in verse, the author aware that th...moreThis is an extraordinary work. There is a whole lot of intangibles at work here... the novelty of a "novel" written in verse, the author aware that this was his final work, and okay, ironically a tangible -- the physical book being a work of art in and of itself. I read 98% digital these days, but this is a book not to be experienced via an e-reader.
This is a clever, edgy, humorous, heartbreaking work. Each chapter takes place in different times and with different characters (some return), but are somehow all linked up. There is a "light bulb" moment in the end that almost begs for an immediate re-read. I am pretty sure I will pick it up again at some point.
Still I don't feel like I completely got it. I took my time with it, only a chapter or two per day/reading session. It felt like a work that needed to be digested slowly and deliberately. I am still wondering if I read it too fast. I am not a poetry fan, and while some of it seemed awkward (some weird line/sentence breaking/chopping) and forced (some odd or almost-but-not-quite rhyming), it still was fun exercise to read something some so stylistically different.
Again, there's so much going on here -- or feel there is going on here -- that I am almost tempted to give it 5 stars. If there are shortcomings, I feel as if they are my own fault in not adequately or fully processing Rakoff's final work in so short of time since finishing it, or even on just a first/only read. For now, I will give it 4 stars. A unique, challenging, memorable read. (less)
Chris Ware's Building Stories is a tour de force. Ware boldly defies the digital age, by giving readers the ultimate non-ebook, and not even a book at...moreChris Ware's Building Stories is a tour de force. Ware boldly defies the digital age, by giving readers the ultimate non-ebook, and not even a book at that - but a 14-piece media experience. In a world where personal interaction is on the decline (don't tell me you've never been in a room and everyone -- yourself included -- is on a device!), Ware gives (forces!) readers to be interactive -- something even the biggest book nerds (raises hand) might find a tad uncomfortable/outside the box.
So while curious, I have to admit that I never expected to experience (saying "read" just doesn't quite do justice to this) Building Stories. But Santa was listening and it was under the tree Christmas morning. I opened it later that today, but still had a good deal of trepidation about it. All the different pieces and the "free-style" aspect were overwhelming. Even after taking in the first piece or two, I was still a tad worried, while I was glad Santa supported our local independent bookstore, I also knew that meant Santa paid the full retail price of $50, I'd had better read it and like it!
But as the days unfolded (I took it slow, 14 days in fact -- tho not necessarily at a piece per day - I would recommend this as well, it feels like it should not be rushed), things started to connected and I was really quite impressed with the scope, breadth, and depth of the entire work. I was amazed how a story was really coming together in such a random way. I couldn't tell you what order I read things, but certainly no logical order (I've been reading folks have been "reading" small to large).
I still had my quibbles here and there. Like other middle-aged and/or ocularly-challenged readers, the small print on some of the pieces made me feel a decade (or two) older having to hold some of the pieces just inches from my face. Additionally, I was a bit thrown off or felt some of the side characters in the apartment building were not really necessary in the overall scheme of things other than to further add to the overall tone/themes of loneliness, isolation, and angst (while humorous at times, it's all a bit of a downer). However, the main story and lead female character was very compelling. Finally, I am just not sure I *got* everything.
I have not read (m)any negative criticisms about Building Stories, but my hunch may be that the story aspect might be riding the coattails of the high-quality artwork and presentation. And even then, this is not a good fit for everyone - one needs to be/want to be a bit adventurous. So trying to separate the story (ever so slight wishy-washiness) vs. the art/presentation (firmly impressed), the "book" might have dipped into 4-star territory, but more so towards my non-Goodreads supported 4.5 stars.
Going into the last piece (again, just "what happened" to be the last piece), 4.5 stars is where I thought Building Stories was landing. But then, that last piece ended the experience quite perfectly. It was much like the epiphany I had at the 3rd/4th piece. It felt like Ware had (again) pulled off a magic trick. He didn't know what piece I would pick last, but it worked... and worked beautifully. I am sure many other folks (at this writing, it's at a stratospheric 4.54 average rating) feel the same re: the way/order they were "building stories" here as well. High quality and haunting all along, but for that last minute, gasp-inducing "voila" moment, Chris Ware and Building Stories earns a full-fledged 5-stars.
I have a checkered past with Andre Agassi. Having been a fan of pro-tennis since I was a kid, I was intrigued with Agassi when he debuted on the tour...moreI have a checkered past with Andre Agassi. Having been a fan of pro-tennis since I was a kid, I was intrigued with Agassi when he debuted on the tour (I'll even admit to owning a pair of those denim shorts), but somewhere along the way something went astray and it took to the last couple of years of his career for me to re-warm up to him. Contributing to that personal opinion decline was observing him "behind the scenes" when I dabbled as a tennis writer/photographer for in the mid-/late-1990s, which now we know was among his most troubled personal and professional times.
So while I went into this book with a somewhat rehab'd personal opinion of Agassi, by the end of it I found most of my warm and fuzzy feelings about him had come undone (and sadly even wife Steffi Graf also suffers some collateral damage). While I now better understand some of the reasons why Agassi was such a troubled soul, after getting out under the thumb of his father and banking tens of millions the "I hate tennis" mantra gets a bit insincere. During his press tour for this book, I sensed Agassi had somewhat of an epiphany about his life, but I really did not find it in these pages.
He said he wrote this book for his children and also speaks of "The Code of Respect" that each student of his charter school in Vegas commits to memory. But again, after reading page after page of Agassi calling linespeople some very nasty things, consistently petty and often mean-spirited stories about his fellow players, and gleefully courting (ha!) Steffi Graf one month after separating (not yet divorced) from first wife Brooke Shields... and not expressing much, if any, remorse or regret about his actions, other than blanket statements like "I made mistakes" or calling himself a contradiction, is all terribly convenient and left me a bit cold.
Agassi is indeed "open" in this book (though I would argue he does so in a selective manner), and while I can respect his on-court accomplishments and certainly his charitable contributions, in the end I did not find him to be a terribly like-able person. As far as separating the book from the man (is that possible?), while I raced through the book I still have yet to find a tennis memoir that successfully can recount a tennis match (something I struggled with during my years of tennis journalism). I also had high hopes for a more literary quality to it as it was ghostwritten by Pulitzer Prize winner J.R. Moehringer, whose own memoir, The Tender Bar, I so enjoyed but while a step up from some, it is still a fairly straight-up/standard tennis "autobiography."
I know folks are finding this memoir quite inspirational, revelatory, honest, but going into this knowing Agassi's story too well and from many different angles/perspectives, I had to take much of this book with the proverbial grain of salt.(less)
Would have given it 2.5 stars if I could. Ultimately, a disappointment given how much I loved "House of Sand of Fog"... which was far better "rollerco...moreWould have given it 2.5 stars if I could. Ultimately, a disappointment given how much I loved "House of Sand of Fog"... which was far better "rollercoaster"... building to a big climax and screaming down a steep hill... this one seemed to build similarly, but without the big finish (in my opinion). That said, I easy/enjoyable reading... just didn't leave with a WOW. (less)