Bookmarks: Stories built by the reader
“Building Stories” by Chris Ware is technically a graphic novel, but it sure does not look like the typical graphic novel. In fact, when you come across it in the store, nothing about it looks typical. “Building Stories” is a box that is a foot and a half high, a foot wide, and an inch and half thick. And when you open the big huge box, you see that there are 14 different pieces in a variety of sizes and mediums. These pieces make up the novel itself.
“Building Stories” is about a woman and the various buildings she lives her life in, but the stories don’t stop there. The buildings themselves tell the stories of other tenants that have lived there, and show how each individual is linked together in the overall grand story. What is really interesting is how often the story shifts perspectives. It tells the story of the main female character, a few side characters, and of an apartment building and a bee. While everything serves a purpose, the story itself is told through different mediums, in the form of a newspaper, children’s book, a flip book, a hardback and a strip of paper, which leads to confusion about the passage of time and some loss of pace in character and plot development.
This big huge box was a bit of an investment of money ($50) and time – it took me about two hours to read the entire thing. And that was when I had a day off from school and work and could put the pieces together without any interruptions. The investment of time is a must for “Building Stories,” as the 14 individual pieces you need to read to put the story together require the reader to arrange them in a timeline that makes sense. This leads to some rereading of the smaller pieces to understand what is being said where there are only images and no dialogue or narration.
The big question with any book that isn’t at all relevant for a class is “is it worth it?” Is this gigantic, expensive box of weirdness worth it? I’m going to say yeah. The story is mature, sad, moving and worth the time to read and reread.