written by Chris Ware
With so many pieces combining to form one long-form story, it’s easy to get lost inside Building Stories. Where does it begin? Where does it end? That’s all up to you, and that’s just the beginning of its brilliance.
There are more than a dozen freestanding components inside the Building Stories box, and they each combine to tell the story of the denizens of a Chicago brownstone who are going about their (often lonely) lives. Even the building itself is a character as it houses the various residents throughout years (and stages) of their lives. We watch as some go from young to old, their whole lives summed up in just a few panels…and yet these panels say all that needs to be said.
One of Ware’s special gifts is his ability to convey the heights and depths of human emotion in such brief spaces. He can nail a look, an expression, a fleeting glance with the precision of a marksman. That this emotion is broken up over so many disparate pieces strengthens that skill even more, rather than diminishing it in any way. When you pick up a new piece of the story, you embark on a new journey that takes you somewhere unexpected…and often winds up hitting home in strange yet alluring ways.
The overarching narrative is punched with a theme of sadness and loneliness, yet reading Building Stories conveys a sense of wholeness, almost, or at least the intense feeling that people all over often feel the same way.
At $50, Building Stories is not an inexpensive read. But it is a highly valuable and rewarding one, and it delivers a constantly surprising stream of raw humanity.