I discovered Chris Ware with ‘Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth’. It was recommended to me by the clerk of a second-hand music shop that I went to regularly (she was into graphic novels, and this one came highly recommended). I totally ATE that book up, even if it’s a huge brick.
I then proceeded to reading ‘The Acme Novelty Library, Number 20’ and was less enthused. As these were the only two books in our library’s collection, I left it at that.
However, recently, I found a used copy of ‘The Acme Novelty Library, Number 18’ in that same library’s bookshop. I immediately snatched it up; it was battered, but it was cheap – and, after browsing through it, the artwork compelled me to.
I am so VERY fond of Ware’s style. I love the sharp, clean lines, his character designs, his choice of colours, and I like the way he creatively guides his readers through the books: it’s not always left-to-right, up-and-down. In telling his stories this way, he makes them slightly interactive – which, in turn, makes the book more engrossing.
The stories of his that I’ve read thus far all revolve around socially maladjusted, neurotic characters – they feel excluded, want to be included in society like average people, but don’t know how to partake at all. So they are frequently left with somewhat barren lives, with unfulfilled dreams and disappointments galore.
That’s also the case here. In ‘Number 18’, we follow Nanna, a girl with a minor handicap, as she navigates the small waves in her life. Her existence is slightly dour, filled with insecurities and a slowly-simmering depression. But, while the character is hardly inspiring, she feels real, down-to-earth – and, thus, somewhat relatable. We probably all have known someone like her once.
It’s a tribute to Ware that he can make the stories of people such as Nanna compelling – at least, enough that you want to turn the page, that you want know just a bit more. And that’s why I enjoyed this book so much. He made it a fun, easy read about a subject that is neither. To me, that’s quite the accomplishment, and this book deserves to be on any serious graphic novel fan’s shelf.