Self portrait, Chris Ware

Chris Ware can do more than just illustrate. The Oak Park resident and author/illustrator of Building Stories was one of numerous contributors in the New York Times Book Review section last Sunday, answering the Valentine’s Day-inspired question, “What has literature taught you about love?”

Here is Ware’s very literate response:

“As a 20-something art student, I was a skittish Lothario, wondering what kept going wrong when that initial, tingly ‘magic’ started to fade in the few relationships I’d managed to engineer (always a challenge for any cartoonist). You know: the uncomfortable silences. ‘Needing more time.’  The touch of affection that hinted at aggression. I felt like an evolutionary failure, the broken twig at the end of a shriveled DNA branch. When was I going to find the love that lasted forever?

“Literature is not, and should not be, an instruction manual for life. But Tolstoy came perilously close with his novella, Family Happiness, which details the flirtatious courtship, giddy marriage and near dissolution of one couple — and finally the beginning of their real love together. Within this blunt, beautiful and moving story lies one of the truths (and, thus, secrets) of life and maturity.

“Not unlike his later Anna Karenina (or to stretch things, even Ingmar Bergman’s 1973 Scenes From a Marriage, which for its frank dissection of the withering of intimacy ostensibly inspired divorces all over Scandinavia), Tolstoy’s story posits something maybe just as radical: ‘Each time of life has its own kind of love. … Let us be thankful that there is an end of the old emotions and excitements.'”

Nicely put.

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