The Acme Novelty Library, Number 20

The Acme Novelty Library, Number 20, by Chris Ware 8.0

Volume 20 in the generically-titled Ware series of graphic novels follows a character originally from Number 16 and/or 17, Jason Lint – who, in the previous book(s) only had a cameo as a high school jerk daydreaming about sex with the new girl in his class.

In this book, we delve into Lint’s whole life, from birth to death, exploring his childhood traumas and subsequent behavioural difficulties, his teenage daydreams and ambition, the resulting adult life, and his various loves and family dynamics.

While the main character is not a pleasant person, we get to understand how complex he is and why he strays as he does. Somehow, Ware manages to get us to sympathize with Lint somewhat. After all, for all his faults (and he has many!), he’s just a lost soul who doesn’t seem to know better. sad0038 Free Sad Emoticons

Unfortunately, Ware’s storytelling wasn’t entirely intuitive here. While I usually welcome and relish the challenges he provides his readers, in this book I wasn’t always sure which panels to follow – which is not only confusing, but it throws off the flow of one’s reading. It’s not the first time this has happened in his books, and this was hardly the worst example, but it proved unduly complex. indifferent0004 Free Emoticons   Indifferent

I also wasn’t 100% clear about the ending – the details of it, that is. Ultimately, I know what happened, but I would like to understand how things developed the way that they did. It’s funny, because we spent so much time with the middle-aged Jason Lint, but then we were given only a small taste of the aged Lint – it was as though Ware was in a hurry to wrap it up by then. Sadly, as events whizzed by, I couldn’t easily grasp each passing moment. confused

Still, it’s mostly a successful overview of one person’s life in 72 pages. I would challenge almost any biographer to do as good a job in portraying their subject as Ware does here. Despite the book’s brevity and flaws, of which there are precious few, he manages to give us an insightful look at one man’s life. That’s plenty enough for me. It’s a keeper. happy0027 Free Emoticons   Happy

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