Touted as an instant classic, Chris Ware’s graphic novel Building Stories gives us a peek into the lives of the inhabitants of a Chicago apartment building (an old woman, a young amputee, a forever bickering couple) and their struggles to find meaning amid the isolation of modernity. Ware’s characters existentially writhe amid commonplace failures, mundane routines, and the crushing grip of loneliness. More akin to a puzzle box, Building Stories contains 14 distinct books, booklets, and pamphlets that, much like the trick of memory, are ordered and constructed as the reader sees fit. Ware exposes something utterly human through his meticulous documentation of the ordinary, and takes us so deep into his characters’ lives that it becomes impossible to separate their struggles from our own.
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