Chris Ware’s new Building Stories comic showed up yesterday. It’s a box (kind of like a boardgame) containing a bunch (14 I think) of different size/formats of comics (pamphlets small and large, newspapers, hardcovers, etc.) Just at face value it’s a little crazy, I can’t imagine anyone else making comics has the cachet to get something like this published (a few people suggested Spiegelman, but I’m not sure, since I don’t think, post-Maus, he’s done anything that would sell enough to make it worthwhile, nor do I think he could actually pull off the work necessary for such a product).
In an interview at Publisher’s Weekly, Ware recently discussed the work:
…the idea behind the book is to try to get at the way we remember things, the way we put our lives together in our memories and kind of rewrite our own memories sometimes to suit ourselves. Also to get at a sense of how when you are remembering something that’s happened to you, sometimes you can almost lose yourself in that memory to the point where you lose the sense of the world around you, maybe just for a few seconds or something like that.
I had hoped that with this book, that if say you start reading one story and interpret it as the present and then move on to another part of the book and realize that it wasn’t actually the present you were reading about, it was actually the character’s past, that that that might get at a little tiny bit of that feeling. I mean, every book is about a story happening from beginning to end and somebody changing as the story goes on but I wanted to try to create something that is maybe a little more analogous to the way that it feels in my brain, which is maybe a little more three dimensional and uncertain than that…
Now I haven’t started reading Building Stories (I opened the box, and took a quick look at all the pieces), yet, in a way I have. I expect a lot of Ware readers/fans are coming to this nonlinear set of comics about memory with the lingering memory of having already read parts of the book. I’ve read the parts that appeared in The New York Times, Acme Novelty Library (I believe #18 is included in the box in some form), Kramers Ergot (the life-size baby comic), and probably some other places. So in a way, reading Building Stories will be partially an act of rereading and revisiting. This seems particularly a propos to Ware’s statement about memory, past, present, and the non-linear structure of the narrative as a whole.