The ACME Novelty Library #20
Chris Ware, writer/artist
Drawn & Quarterly, September 2010
72 pages, hardcover
What makes a life? Is it the narrative we assemble in retrospect from the sights and sounds we remember best? Is it like comics in that regard, a combination of words and pictures stacked together to tell a story? To what degree do we act as our own cartoonists, then, picking and choosing the right combination of words and pictures to tell the story of ourselves we most want to hear? Is it possible that the way we misremember things tells us more of that story? What about the words and pictures we skip entirely? When we come to a point in the story that makes us think “Wait a minute, shouldn’t we have seen Event X or Y or Z by now, why did we skip that, shouldn’t that have been a bigger deal,” what does that tell us? What does a jump cut mean? What does an absence mean? Or what does a presence mean? What do we make of recurring marginalia that pops up when the story is supposed to be dealing with something entirely different? Is that persistence a reflection of the original absence? And who are the characters in our story? Is it fair to see them that way? Do they have any idea that’s what they are to us? Do they know how big a role they play? Do we know how big a role we’ve played in their stories? Would we even remember? Would we ever have known in the first place, or did we forget? How does it feel to find out? How do their stories affect our own? What happens when they leave our story? What happens when we leave theirs? What gets in the way of our own story? What constitutes static on the screen, blots out the image as it really is and makes it something else, however briefly? What do we do and say and think and feel in those moments that’s different from all the other moments? In what new direction will those moments send our story? What happens when we prefer the way the story used to be told? What happens when we find ourselves in a new story of someone else’s making? What happens when a turn of a page to a new set of words and images stuns us, hurts us? What happens when we reach the end of the story? What makes a story worth telling? A life worth living? Looking back, can we ever be sure that the answer isn’t “nothing”?