Building Stories, a 2012 project from Chris Ware, defies traditional literary explanation.
When my friend first gave the book to me, even she didn’t know quite how to explain it. First off, it’s in a box the size of a Milton-Bradley board game.
“It’s a game?” I asked. “No, it’s hard to explain … it’s stories …” she replied.
And that it is—stories. Lots of them. But I think the best way to describe the work is this—it’s a piece of art. Think of it this way—if books were like paintings at a museum, this is one you could stare at for hours. You would find some of it beautiful, some of it strange and know that some element, in this case, a possibly transgender bumblebee struggling with his identity and religion, is a metaphor for SOMETHING, but you just don’t know what.
I mean it—I’m still trying to figure that damn Branford out.
Building Stories is my second foray into graphic novels this year, and a great reminder that words and pictures work beautifully together. The box contains a variety of stories in the form of posters, pamphlets, flip books and hardcovers. The thread that ties them together is the building—an apartment building somewhere in Chicago. The residents each have their own tales to tell, some overlapping and others distinctly different.
What I liked most about it is that it fed my imagination. I am one of those people that will walk by a building, or look into someone’s car during a traffic jam, and try to build a story around them. No one can ever know what another’s journey is like, but you can certainly think a fantasy version up. Building Stories pays homage to just that kind of nerdy creative personality.
A heads up—this isn’t necessarily a graphic novel you want to leave laying around for kids. There is nudity, sex and even a vibrator. (That even made me giggle, so imagine your 12-year-old’s response.)
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