Chris Ware’s most recent book, Building Stories, is actually 14 stories, housed in a single collection, all housed inside in a box the size of a board game. This ambitious project is the narrative of a nameless protagonist and follows her from college into motherhood. Her tale is told on skinny, cloth-bound leaflets—thick booklets—each in a unique package. These stories are not meant to be read in any particular order, but rather enjoyed in bits and fitted together like a puzzle, unpacked like so many memories.
A delightfully stormy day found this prolific cartoonist in Portland. I had the good fortune to witness an interview for Think Out Loud. Forgetting my umbrella and thinking myself late, I splashed my way up to the Literary Arts headquarters. I had just gotten the invitation to hear his interview that morning and, when I arrived, I was not sure what to expect.
Chris Ware is a unpresuming man who quietly made his way into the room and neatly tucked himself in his chair, his legs and arms crossed. As the interview got going, you couldn’t help lean toward this man, taking in his self-deprecating humor, his quiet, almost timid demeanor. As he talks about his work and his creative process, he makes you feel comfortable by explaining his own discomfort with his work.
As questions were opened up to the public, you can tell how touched he was, surprised even, that his stories have resonated with so many people. One nervous young woman went up to share her work with him after the interview and, written on his face, was compassion and the desire to put her at ease. He welcomed people into conversation about their work and stories. Extraordinary.
If you haven’t heard the episode, I highly recommend giving it a listen.