In Leanne Shapton’s marvelously inventive and invented auction catalog, the 325 lots up for auction are what remain from the relationship between Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris (who aren’t real people, but might as well be). Through photographs of the couple’s personal effects–the usual auction items (jewelry, fine art, and rare furniture) and the seemingly worthless (pajamas, Post-it notes, worn paperbacks)–the story of a failed love affair vividly (and cleverly) emerges. From first meeting to final separation, the progress and rituals of intimacy are revealed through the couple’s accumulated relics and memorabilia. And a love story, in all its tenderness and struggle, emerges from the evidence that has been left behind, laid out for us to appraise and appreciate.
In a nutshell:
I read it in: English
I liked it: I loved the idea, I kind of liked the result
For people who like: Fiction that looks like non-fiction, putting two and two together without being explicitly told what happened.
I was quite fascinated with the idea of an auction catalogue to tell the story of a relationship. It sounded intriguing, interesting and different. When I started reading this book I realized how much work it must have been to put this together. There are photos of the couple (standing in for Lenore and Hal were Sheila Heti and Paul Sahre), tons of letters and notes, various items, clothes, pictures of cakes and what not. The thought that someone put a part of the lives of two fictional people together in that way is fascinating.
However, I would have liked it better if those people were a little less hip and outstandingly original, but a little closer to everyday people in everyday life. There are a few short conversations that Lenore and Hal had written on brochures during a concert etc. and the dialogue to me sounds just too much of a good thing. Listen to this (about the poodles on the cover):
I can tell you hate them/ No!/ But I love the dogs, the dogs love you, they are perfect pets, as they do not poo./ Dearest Hal, they are not our pal, their breed is a pain, a firm hand must train./ Lenore, Lenore, fear not evermore, these unbroken pups you’ll soon adore./ You win, dark knight, at least they don’t bite.
Often there would be song lyrics scribbled down in books, unfortunately I knew none of the songs, and so couldn’t relate too much. The clothes are mostly vintage clothes, the items are all vintage or artsy. Everything was just a little bit too extraordinary. I mean, who on Earth would go as a litmus test on Halloween? I just couldn’t relate to those two and frankly, I didn’t give a damn whether they would stay together or not (even though, of course, it was clear from the start, they would not). Also, I saw no reason why they would auction off the things they did. Why would you sell on your bathing suits after a break up?
Most of the hints as to what happened in the relationship of the couple we receive from notes to each other, emails, letters (who nowadays writes postal letters from the US to Europe, esp. when the other is only gone for a week or two?) either to each other or from friends or family to either Lenore or Hal. I must be missing something completely because I think that basically the same effect could have been achieved with an epistolary novel of some kind. Maybe in the style of Love Virtually. Somehow I simply expected more of that auction catalogue idea and it didn’t deliver it.
All in all I enjoyed reading this (I love catalogues in general), but the book left me a bit disappointed in the end.
Product info and buy link :
Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris: Including Books, Street Fashion and Jewelry
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Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I would love to hear other opinions.