The Acme Novelty Library #20 by Chris Ware Download (read online) free eBook

The Acme Novelty Library #20

Jordan Wellington Lint, fifty-one, is chief executive officer of Lint Financial Products, a company he began serving in 1985 as assistant and adviser before working his way up its corporate ladder to record-setting innovation in the fields of finance and high-yield investment. In his seven years as the head of Lint, Jordan has grown the company from a business lender and r

Plots are not Chris Ware’s strong suit. His specialty is observing the entire life of a solitary loser or asshole in minute detail. Ware’s latest subject is Jordan Lint, a bully who flowers into an asshole. Not the kind of asshole people love. Not a Barney Stinson or a Dr. House. Jordan is just a no-account douche, who is otherwise perpetually confused about how to live.

Without exaggeration, this probably the best graphic novel I have ever read. Not for the story: Jordan is born into an upper mi

Without exaggeration, this probably the best graphic novel I have ever read. Not for the story: Jordan is born into an upper middle-class Omaha family. Jordan does nothing much with his life, treats others badly, and drifts into different identities assigned to him by others who usually care for him or try their best to help him along. Jordan is nearly uninteresting.

But this book is amazing, because Ware is evolving graphic storytelling in disturbingly innovative ways. He begins Jordan’s story at birth. The initial images are jarring, pixelated, lacking in detail. The dialogue is nonsense or single syllables. The sophistication of the images grows with Jordan as he proceeds through childhood, teen years, college, middle age, and elderly life. Sex, infidelity, births, lawsuits, divorce, and deaths happen during different periods of Jordan’s life. Sometimes these events are barely mentioned and some happen between pages. The reader sees and deals with only as much tragedy and ensuing fallout as Jordan can apprehend and process, which is very little, but the results of the events are clear.

Ware uses foreground panels to depict the quotidian nature of Jordan’s existence, while the white space and panels within panels depict Jordan’s inner life, which is sometimes mere impressions of an idealized self, sex fantasies and complex emotional states that he never manages to share with others. Ware also catches the moments people look at themselves in passing reflections off windows, computer screens, digital photos on cell phones, and in Google results.

Acme Novelty Library #20 is a triumph of artistry. The prosaic jerk is painstakingly explored with rigorous technique. Ware is a master, fleshing out the inner and outer life of an asshole with the assurance of civil engineer planning a municipal bridge. Ware approaches his unworthy subject knowing it has to be perfectly rendered, driven by professional obligation and personal obsession to make a peerless object, even if the object is so pragmatic that it could be simultaneously used and ignored by thousands blithely unaware of the craftsmanship that went into such an object.

Ware shows you the asshole no one likes. Jordan isn’t a clever or complex asshole. He is just an average asshole with no special talent and not much to give, and Ware explains how someone may have lived this sort of life. Ware wants to render him to encapsulate him or understand him. I’m not sure which, but I think both goals are met as far as one can currently capture a single life as a visual narrative. The book is Jordan and Jordan is the book insofar as a man can be a book.

MJ Nicholls

Apr 13, 2012

rated it
it was amazing

Recommended to MJ by:
Paul Bryant

Yes, this one was spectacular. I don’t know anything about the Acme Library except I missed the preceding nineteen novels, but the life and death of Jordan Lint was beautifully designed. A truly pioneering way to tell a simple story, leagues ahead in the originality and wittiness stakes. Like a dream that becomes a nightmare, beaming life back at us in all its horrible inevitability. I read portions of this in The Book of Other People, so completing the piece a year later was a prolonged pleasur