Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry - Leanne Shapton

Lot 1172
A travel clock

An Elgin travel clock, including original box. Given to Morris by Doolan.
Doolan insisted that the clock remain on New York time. Morris took the clock on two trips, but complained that it was too heavy.

This book is absolutely brilliant. It's the story of a romantic relationship, as seen through the physical remnants and detritus accumulated over several years. The book is formatted as an auction catalog, and is filled with black-and-white photographs of various items, paired with brief descriptions, dimensions, and price ranges. There are occasionally brief notes accompanying the lot descriptions, but not always. Sometimes it's just a pair of pajamas, but then in a separate lot, you might find out that it's related to something else, or some story about Doolan and Morris.

There are old snapshots of the couple, salt and pepper shakers they stole from various restaurants, print-outs of email exchanges, sent and unsent letters, marginalia in books, Christmas gifts, mix CDs, and a number of other things that a couple might have lying around after they've been together for a while.

Of course, following the principle that failed relationships make for more interesting fiction than successful ones, the bits and pieces catalog the way that their relationship gradually deteriorated. So, while I understand it makes for a better story, it's still a bit disheartening to watch them fall apart. (It's no secret, though, that this is how things will turn out; the book is introduced with a note from Morris to Doolan that reveals the couple is no longer together.)

But what makes the book brilliant is the way that it's put together: as an auction catalog, the text is very objective and unopinionated. It doesn't make any judgment calls. Instead, it allows the pieces to speak for themselves: a broken item shares a page with an apology about a fight; a note from an ex-boyfriend has the same date as Morris' itinerary out of the country; little things here and there connect to each other in oblique ways, and the book simply catalogs them and lets you make the connections. Shapton has a keen eye for selecting things that tell the story without overdoing it.

The old J. Peterman catalogs had fun little stories about each item. In this book, although the descriptions are not narratives, taken together the items actually do tell a story. I can't imagine that you've seen a book anything like this before.

Fed to jonathan's brain | September 13, 2009 | Comments (0)


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