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These books command, not capture, your attention

The new Chris Ware book has sat beside my desk for weeks. It’s been tough to miss. It’s about a foot-and-a-half tall with a canary-yellow spine, and the cover image is signature Ware: Comic book hieroglyphics of domestic ennui, linked by thin schematic lines, flow charts of word balloons and worried portraits of the Oak Park genius himself. It’s like the blueprints for a bomb that leaves you melancholy. Even if I wanted to avoid it, I couldn’t: My desk is only slightly larger than the book, yet “Monograph” ($60, Rizzoli), a survey of an artist who turns only 50 this month, is perfectly outsized, correctly singular.

No wonder I have found the book routinely moved around my desk by curious co-workers. One day an anonymous Post-It was stuck on the cover, the message simply: !!!

I get that. I haven’t been able to keep my hands off “Monograph” either. It includes giant reproductions of Ware’s New Yorker covers (which actually, partly, show Oak Park); a generous sample of his homemade toys and models (“dumb little gifts,” he writes); Ware even inserts, within the book itself, small, flippable reproductions of his smallest books. Until he receives the vast museum retrospective he already deserves, it’ll more than do.

It’s also a terrific example of the book as an object to savor, to obsess over.

About Michael
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