Friday, June 28, 2013

Review: Building Stories

From the moment I heard about Building Stories by Chris Ware, I was intrigued (and a bit daunted). It's a graphic novel of sorts, told over multiple works housed in one big box. It took me a while to get around to it (and a while for one of the few copies in my library network to make it to me), but once it was in my hands, I settled in for a marathon of reading.

The title would imply that the stories all revolve around one building (a 3-apartment building), and for a while, they do. The 14 pieces of the story can really be read in any order, but I read it from largest to smallest (mostly), which kept things more or less in chronological order. The later pieces veer away from the apartment building, following just one of the characters as she moves out of the building and moves on with her life.

And there lies my largest problem with the whole book. I wanted the story to completely remain within the apartment building, or at the very least, follow all the participants. Instead, by focusing more firmly on just one of the people, it made the stories of the other two apartments feel more trivial. In particular, there is the unhappy couple that lives on me second floor - why are they so unhappy? how long do they live in the building? Why should I care?

If you enjoy the graphic novel form, then you can't miss this one, based on its form alone. The nonlinear format trumps the not-so-fulfilling story. It actually left me pretty depressed, partially because nothing is wrapped up and partially because the content itself is not terribly happy. Don't read this in one go on a rainy day like I did.

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