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Chris Ware on "some sort of living death"

Posted by Elizabeth Manus  November 16, 2012 10:59 AM

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With everyday existence an ongoing contest between 3-D, in-the-flesh experience and machine-mediated, pixelated life, some people still think it’s quite important to have a tactile relationship with the technological machine known as the printed book.

One of them is cartoonist Chris Ware, who offered a vigorous take on the subject to the Los Angeles Review of Books in a recent interview about his new graphic novel Building Stories.

CB: The title Building Stories could refer to the tales within the apartment building featured in the book, and it can refer to the act of creating stories, as you do. To what extent is Building Stories an attempt to revive an interest in the possibilities of the printed book? Are you leery of e-books, Kindles, and the rush to hop on the digital bandwagon?

CW: Yes, very much so, though I don't mean to dismiss them, as I think they're great for news and transitory information. I do think that when it comes to art, books offer a sort of reassuring physical certainty for the ineffable uncertainties of life, but then again I'm 44 and don't tweet or have a Facebook page or participate in most of the things that blunt the textures of experience in favor of delivering them up more quickly to your friends, so maybe that's just me. I find it very telling that the regular selling point of this or that new version of technology is that it's "higher resolution." What does that mean, exactly? It's like admitting the inherent superiority of life while still trying to sell some sort of living death instead. I am absolutely convinced that sitting in front of a screen for long periods of time damages the brain and alters one's brain chemistry. You can feel it happening — you start surrendering more and more of yourself until, eventually, you recoil and think, "Ugh. I feel gross." I think it's colloquially known as "Swearing off Facebook for a While.” It's so incredibly difficult to voluntarily remove oneself from these reassurances that our lives are significant that sometimes we forget that life, actually, isn't very significant — which is sort of reassuring, too.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the article also mentions that the trade periodical Publishers Weekly declared Ware’s book “one of the year’s best arguments for the survival of print.”

Image: detail from "Building Stories," courtesy Pantheon.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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