Monday

Chris Ware and the New York Times Book Review's Best Books of the Year

A lot of the time when people talk about comics and the lack of respect that the medium gets, I just roll my eyes. Comics do get little respect, it's true, but that doesn't bother me. Though admittedly I do understand why many of the people who create such things would be bothered by it, I tend to ignore the people who just want more people to have the same taste that they do.

How does an art form gain acceptance and respect? It creates great work.

One of the best works this year (and one of the best works from most years) has been Chris Ware's Building Stories, which is a work that I'll admit after multiple readings, I'm still coming to terms with. I think it's brilliant and overwhelming. It's also a must-read for everyone interested in comics or graphic art. The editors of the book review mentioned that "the graphic novel achieved new heights of mastery in Chris Ware's Building Stories." In their description of the book, "it tackles universal themes including art, sex, family and existential loneliness in a way that's simultaneously playful and profound." I couldn't have said it better.

Among the books that were listed the previous week in the Book Review's lineup of the 100 best books of the year are a few other comics and comic-related titles:

Alison Bechdel's new memoir Are You My Mother? was named one of the year's notable books. It's interesting because many reviewers have compared the book negatively to her first book Fun Home, and I think that this one of the problems where people think you're brilliant and talented, you're always expected to be brilliant and talented. Are You My Mother? is less dramatic than Fun Home, but it's also more nuanced and complicated and I think in some ways less satisfying to readers because of this.

Deirdre Bair's new biography of the great artist Saul Steinberg was on the best of the year list and honestly a book by one of the great contemporary biographers and a talented artist who led a colorful, eventful life seems like a no-brainer and a guaranteed great book.

I was glad to see G. Willow Wilson's debut novel Alif the Unseen on the list, after a long run of comics including Cairo and Air. Despite the book's flaws, it remains a powerful look at the contemporary Middle East that ends where we are today.

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