I'm a bit of a bibliophile (okay, that's a massive understatement). I'm not a purist - I have definitely read a couple of things in e-form. However, I am a big fan of paper, materials and thoughtful craftsmanship when it comes to my reading material. This is why I was so delighted when I bought a behemoth of a book, Building Stories by cartoonist Chris Ware. I'll get deeper into that book in a later post. For now I'll just say that it has beautiful design: a box that, like a building, is full of a number of different elements and types of comics content. A true treasure trove! The gorgeous, experimental design of Building Stories is not that surprising coming from Ware, who has a history of not following the rules when it comes to the publishing norms of physical books. He has written abnormally huge books filled to the brim with tiny details and held inside ornate covers. He has written very small, thick books filled with panels edge to edge. Ware doesn't do this just to be avant-garde - the form of his comics are meticulously designed, as well as very thoughtfully and interestingly related to their topics and stories. Chris Ware has won many, many industry awards for his ingenuity and artistry, including the Harvey, Eisner and Ignatz Awards. His works include: Quimby the Mouse The ACME Novelty Library Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth Rusty Brown Building Stories ...and various other projects and pieces for periodicals like Esquire and The New Yorker. He also edited the 13th issue of the literary magazine McSweeney's as a comics anthology. It's one of my favorite book possessions! I was thinking about Chris Ware today while reading up on some comics news and came across an interview he did with Rookie Mag from 2012 that I am sharing here because although it is an oldie, it is still a goodie! In the article, Tavi Gevinson starts out with a very well-articulated assessment of the artist/author: "I will say, however, that if I could ask all humans to read just one thing, it would be any of his books. They’re not quite comic books or graphic novels; he’s almost created his own medium. Sometimes his books have pages of satirical advertisements drawn by him. Sometimes there’s no dialogue throughout an entire spread. Some panels look like complicated mazes but flow like streams of consciousness. The same characters pop up in different stories, the most overlooked details of everyday life get the most attention, and I always come away from it all feeling more connected to any person I may pass on the street and with a strong desire to create something of my own. That is, I believe, the best a person taking in a thing another person made can hope for." Some of my favorite moments of the interview include: * Ware's response to Tavi's question about what drives him as a cartoonist, since he has professed that the process and the result both make him feel miserable "I guess I’m motivated by actually finishing something—something that I know I’ve tried my absolute hardest at and have put every bit of myself into—while the tolerability of the actual creative experience remains a distant concern. There are also those rare moments while writing and drawing where something comes up completely unexpectedly on the page—like a gesture or a facial expression on a character—which suddenly reveals something about the story or the person I simply never would have thought of just sitting around thinking. In the best of these instances, I might also realize I’ve been lying to myself about some part of my own personality for years, and that consequently there’s something I need to change." * Also, his great advice for others who are in a similar struggle: "To work as hard as possible, and then, when you think you’re done, to work just a little bit harder. To know that if it feels “right” it may actually be completely wrong, and that if it feels “wrong” it may be completely right. There’s no governing principle to any of this except that strange instinct and feeling within yourself that you simply have to learn to trust, but which is always unreliably changing. To create something for people who have not been born yet. To pay attention to how it actually feels to be alive, to the lies you tell yourself and others. Not to overreach—but also not to get too comfortable with your own work. To avoid giving in to either self-doubt or self-confidence, depending on your leaning, and especially to resist giving over your opinion of yourself to others—which means not to seek fame or recognition, which can restrain rather than open your possibility for artistic development. With all this in mind, not to expect anything and to be grateful for any true, non-exploitative opportunity that presents itself, however modest. And to understand that being able to say “I don’t know what to do with my life” is an incredible privilege that 99% of the rest of the world will never enjoy." I recommend you pick up a book by Chris Ware, hold it in your hands, admire it, take your time looking at all its intricacies, and then try to figure out where to put it on your bookshelf!