Monday, 11 January 2010
The Lure of things
The full title of the book whose jacket is illustrated here is "Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris: Including Books, Street Fashion and Jewelry" by Leanne Shapton. It's one of the many books I asked for and got for Christmas and you'll be hearing about several of them here.
If ever a book had a USP it's this one. An affair, ultimately unsuccessful, between the two people named in the long title, is commemorated or recorded through photographs of significant objects to both or each of them. It would be unfair to say the book has no narrative but it certainly has no continuous text - only the captions to each object as it appears in a catalogue of items for sale. And that sale takes place on Valentine's Day 2009.
It's a very smart little book indeed and I "read" it excitedly - keen to pick up clues as to where it all went wrong and why. It is, from that point of view a tour de force. I take my hat off to Ms Shapton and she can label it "green knitted type known in the UK as a "beanie" much used in periods of inclement weather"$5-$10.
BUT. It makes no sense. However much a couple is keen on the material manifestations of their shared life, neither one of them gets rid of everything when the affair is over! "That's a lovely cashmere sweater Harold gave me; I think I'll keep it" or " Lenore gave me that book; I've always loved it" are more common reactions.
And no-one in a relationship has ALL the items.I was also irritated by the woman's being a "cake columnist" while the guy was a photojournalist or something, because when she accuses him of not taking her work seriously I think "nor do I" even though Lenore comes across as more loving and altogether nicer than Harold. (He's a big old commitment freak 13 years older than her).
So I loved the book but think it's essentially sterile: a dead end. You can't have any more such catalogues.
And then i read about Orhan Pamuk's Museum of innocence. He apparenty also uses iconic objects to tell of a man's obsession with a woman, but, being a Nobel-winning novelist and all, he gives us text and plenty of it.
I'm thinking of writing my autobiography in objects. Hey, we can all do it - we all have stuff, right?