The Book of Other People: Part 3, Chris Ware

I bought a discarded collection of short stories from a bankrupt library a few weeks ago, the inside cover displays the dates of the five times it was checked out. Edited by Zadie Smith and published by Penguin, The Book of Other People collects shorts from Daniel ClowesDave Eggers,Jonathan Safran Foer and David Mitchellamong others.

Being semi-ambitious, I plan to read and review each short. Not in any sort of literary context, but in the context of my personality. I am not trying to be objective.

Jordan Wellington Lint

Chris Ware is, to put it simply, completely nuts. I first encountered his work when I did my damnedest to tackle Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth. It’s a dense tome told in bright colors and lines spaced with mathematical perfection. The whole thing is mind blowing and difficult. I never finished it. Jimmy Corrigan is kind of like the Finnigan’s Wake of graphic novels, everyone has it on their shelves but no one has ever made it all the way through. I think that’s a compliment to Ware, if I’m honest. He’s created a comic style that, both visually and contextually, is just too smart for most people.

Jordan Wellington Lint is a bit easier to take, being that it’s just a few short pages in length, making the mental exertion needed to deal with Ware’s style less of a challenge.

My favorite panels of the story may very well be the first few.  Jordan Wellington Lint begins with Jordan as a baby. Everything is a strange shape thats both foreign and familiar,  eventually growing into something recognizable. Ware is trying to capture the feel of growing cognoscente. I believe he does so well.

Ware does this great thing, where he picks the most awkward moments in being a human and colors them in cartoon colors. It’s uncomfortable to read about Jordan’s sexual awakening because of the tension that exists between the art and the content, but also because it’s a universally relatable moment.

Thankfully, the story ends with a very real and very funny moment. I think that’s what makes this piece work best for me, because you leave it feeling much nicer than you would after experience another of Ware’s work.

Honestly, I think Chris Ware does as much to legitimize the medium as Art Spiegelman. If you’re interested in comics and if you have a history with modern literature, anything by Chris Ware is a fantastic place to start.

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