“Like the growing rings of a tiny hexagonal tree, billions of water molecules spin around and around, each finding the closest, easiest, and most comfortable bond…” – from the opening lines.
Such is Chris Ware’s comment on human relationships in this book – yet another masterful look at average lives, filled with people who ache to be accepted, to be loved. And are. Except that they can’t seem to see beyond their inner pain, beyond the flurry that fills their eyes.
In volume 16 of Chris Ware’s ‘The Acme Novelty Library’ series, otherwise known as ‘Rusty Brown’, we follow two different stories at once, quite literally, both of which intermingle eventually. There are four main characters from two different families (Woody Brown, Rusty Brown, Chalky White and Alice White), all of whom work or go to the same school.
Over the course of 64 pages, we are privy to the first 90 mins (or so) of the start of their week, from waking to getting ready to the ride to school to their first few interactions to their first classes. At the tail end of the book, we also get a first glimpse at Nanna’s life, in part one of ‘Building Stories’ (part two of which is featured in Acme No. 18) – a delightful exploration of the characters living in the same brownstone as her.
The illustrations are exceptionally detailed, as per usual. It’s all the little touches that make these books such a joy to read – Ware knows how to create moments and translate emotion with the simple-looking, but incredibly accurate designs. Even the books themselves are full of such details as hand-designed labels and are made to look like facsimiles of schoolbooks. I’m amazed by Ware’s meticulous touch.
I’m terribly impressed by this book. Not only is it a work of art, but it manages to make even the most mundane situations and people rich with life. It helps one to appreciate the vitality that hides behind human frailty, to see that behind even the most self-effacing individual are similar hopes, dreams, needs, desires, fears, disappointments and doubts.
‘The Acme Novelty Library Series’ is turning out to be quite the rare treat. I’d highly recommend it to fans of nuanced dramedians such as Woody Allen and Albert Brooks. As for me, I’m actually considering buying the whole lot and filling my shelves with them. The next volume will decide that.