Montreal Gazette recommends Guy Delisle, Tom Gauld, and Chris Ware's

“Rewind 2012: No shortage of top-shelf titles” / Gazette Literary Critic / Ian McGillis / December 21, 2012

MONTREAL - Gabriel Garcia Marquez can’t write anymore. Philip Roth says he won’t be writing anymore. Gore Vidal, Nora Ephron, David Rakoff and Maurice Sendak definitely won’t be writing anymore. With an attrition rate like that, you’d be forgiven for assuming that 2012 was, for readers, a decided downer. But as the array below will attest, it has been a year of riches.

Try as I may, I can’t read everything: Alice Munro, Peter Carey, Junot Diaz, Ian McEwan, Tamas Dobozy, Will Ferguson, Peter Dubé and Tess Fragoulis are just a few whose newest books taunt me, untouched, from the bedside table. Think of what follows, then, not as an attempt at a definitive Best of 2012, but rather an account of a year in reading by someone for whom books fall only slightly below oxygen and food in the list of life’s essentials.

Chris Ware’s Building Stories (Pantheon, $55) is so original that writing about it almost demands a whole new vocabulary. From its form (14 discrete volumes of varying size and format inside a large box) to its Escher-like approach to narrative (the volumes can be read in any order), this literary objet d’art — it can scarcely be called a book as we understand that word — can make you re-experience the thrill of first encountering literature. Best of all, the innovation is there to serve an immaculately observed human-scale story of an ordinary woman in an ordinary Chicago apartment block. You sense that if Ware hadn’t gone into cartooning, he could have been Raymond Carver. Newness notwithstanding, there’s nothing “difficult” about what Ware has done, beyond his occasional use of eyeball-straining lettering — and hey, we’ve never held small type against the compact edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, have we?

Chris Ware’s colossal achievement shouldn’t obscure other advances in the thriving realm of graphic literature. Tom Gauld’s Goliath (Drawn & Quarterly, 96 pages, $19.95) employs spare imagery and even sparer dialogue to render the hapless fall-guy giant of the Bible an existential hero. Jeff Lemire’s The Underwater Welder (Top Shelf Productions, 224 pages, $24.99) further refines the emotionally affecting way with blue-collar struggle and familial conflict that won Lemire so many fans with his Essex County trilogy. Guy Delisle’s Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City (Drawn & Quarterly, 320 pages, $24.95) is the most ambitious and counterintuitively funny of Delisle’s innocent-abroad accounts of everyday living in global hot spots.

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