lunedì 3 dicembre 2012

Building Stories [review]

I wrote the following short piece for an upcoming section of website.
The Italian version can be found in an earlier post in this same blog. I hope the translation makes sense (thanks to Claudia, Giorgio and Andrea for their hints).

photograph by Jimmy Stamp
The new book by internationally renowned cartoonist Chris Ware is a true milestone in the transition from Comics to Art that Art Spiegelman thinks the medium must attain in order to survive the loss of its "mass" dimension.(*) There's an echo of Duchamp's and Cornell's works in this singular object composed by fourteen differently sized comics (strip, newspaper, game board/screen, leaflet, paperback, hardcover book, etc) contained in a big box that coherently becomes a comic itself.
In its lexical ambiguity the title Building Stories is the perfect synthesis of eleven years of works, some of which were previously published in various periodicals. These works reconstruct the life and stories of a nameless fourty-year-old woman who lives with a sense of loss and overwhelming frustration, being maimed both in her body, as she misses part of a leg, and in her artistic ambitions, as she left Art School and later attended in vain (?) an evening class in creative writing. The woman's narrative voice guides the reader along a non-linear path through panels and pages of seeming simplicity that compose the fragments of a fresco which is in itself partial and incomplete. In her fictional literary experiments her voice is also lent to a bee, as well as to the Chicago brownstone that in the past was the scene of her excruciating loneliness. The single wordless passage of this complex oeuvre tells, perhaps, the unspeakable. By doing so, Ware extends the peculiar elliptical proceeding of the medium to the content of the box as a sum-of-the-parts. He also offers a renewed and enhanced tactile dimension to comics. The result is a challenging read that is enriched by metanarrative tones and dissects the moving and irritating quotidianity of a person unable to build a genuine relationship with the places she lives in; a masterpiece of technique and language that achingly narrates the pettiness and exceptionality of an ordinary life, being at the same time a sublime metaphor of doing comics.

Chris Ware, Building Stories, Pantheon, 2012

(*) If the phrase sounds a bit too convoluted, please substitute with the following, simpler version:
Art Spiegelman has often stated that Comics must become Art in order to survive the progressive drop of their public. The new book by internationally renowned cartoonist Chris Ware is a true milestone of this transition.
Does it sound better?

Building Stories © Chris Ware

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