Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

More Building Stories

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With this sense of historical determinacy in the background, Building Stories turns from problems of the collective past to questions of personal memory. In one of the text’s most virtuosic sequences, Ware presents a cross-section of the ostensibly titular building, overlaying it with a catalogue of events and experiences that took place therein over the past century, along with the objects that filled it up: “296 birthday parties,”  “68,418 orgasms,” “61 broken dinner plates,” and so on. This record of prior feelings, frustrations, and occasional pleasures, is notable first for the way that it detaches them from particular bodies. While Ware positions the accumulated orgasms, for example, over the female narrator, she sits placidly upright in bed, reading by herself. In their enormous numerical excess, these items outstrip the scope of any one individual form, indeed of any one life. While Ware letters this sequence with the same delicate cursive script he used when investigating Jimmy’s paternal past in his earlier novel, he pointedly detaches these terms from any single historical trajectory. What we find here, then, is something like a sedimented record of all those everyday banalities that must go forgotten if we are to continue going about our lives. Like the apartment building itself, which disappears into the weave of the text as a whole, these are the things we leave behind as we mature. Indeed, the most striking of all the items on the page may be the one that Ware places on the porch of the building, at the very edge of its steps: “11,627 lost childhood memories.” Surely it is no accident that this page appears near the start of Building Stories’ “golden book” volume, an object whose gilt spine and cardboard cover summon up images of preadolescent reading, of those works that shape us in ways we can never fully recall.

My friend and intellectual doppelgänger Jacob Brogan reviews Building Stories for the Comics Journal, while the Los Angeles Review of Books has an interview.

Written by gerrycanavan

October 29, 2012 at 7:32 am

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