September 14, 2009

BOOKS: Important Artifacts and Personal Property..., Leanne Shapton (2009)

That title in full: Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry.

What we have here is a story told in the form of an auction catalogue. After a three-year relationship, Lenore and Harold are selling off the memorabilia of their time together. This is the catalogue for the auction, with photos and brief descriptions of all of their stuff, conveniently arranged chronologically. There's the invitation to the Halloween party where they met, the gifts they gave each other for Christmas and birthdays, the postcards they sent when one or the other was traveling.

It's a silly concept; no couple would ever dispose of the detritus of their romance at auction, and unless the couple was far more famous than Lenore and Harold, no auction house would ever be interested in such a thing. (It is possible that Shapton is going for the joke that Strachan & Quinn is so desperate or unreputable an auction house that they would actually do such a thing, but I doubt it.)

It's also a concept that doesn't allow for much development of character. We know that Lenore is 26 and Harold 39 when they meet; we get that she's somewhat passive and he's rather overbearing, but those are the only personality traits that come through.

Shapton also (in my opinon) cheats her own concept through frequent quotes from e-mails, letters, and notes that the two have written to one another; these documents are listed in the catalogue, but usually "not illustrated."

So since the concept doesn't hold water from a realitic standpoint, doesn't allow for any sophistication in character development, and is in fact so limited that the author is forced to tap-dance around it to tell any sort of story at all, the book is only of interest as an odd experiment.

If you enjoy that sort of thing, well, have at it. The book's only about 130 pages long, so at least it won't waste much of your time.

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