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Important Artifacts and Personal Property…

Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore… (2009)

by Leanne Shapton

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The title is very nearly as long as the book; at 129 pages the volume barely makes it to book length. It’s constructed uniquely: it’s an auction catalog for the possessions of a couple, Lenore and Harold. She’s in her 20s, he’s in his 30s. They are hipsters who dress in vintage clothing and use precious vintage accessories. He’s a photographer, she’s a food columnist. We find that he considers his work art and very important and serious, while he considers her writing silly and unimportant. Through the book we see the couple get together, live together for a while, and fall apart. The author does this through not just their objects but through notes; him to her, her to him, her to her sister. Very short, spare notes, but still, they manage to convey the story. You wouldn’t think you could connect to a character with that few words, but I did find myself feeling a little sorry for Lenore.

It’s kind of a fun book to go through. This length is probably all that the format could sustain; it’s not a format for nuance and depth. I enjoyed it, but I’m glad I didn’t buy it but read the library copy. ( )
  dark_phoenix54 | Jun 14, 2014 |
This is the first book that I've bought new in a very long time--I was intrigued by the concept of telling a story through items in an auction catalog instead of through a more standard narrative.

Overall, I thought the conceit worked pretty well, though in order to succeed, the characters had to have some strange habits, like writing relevant song lyrics on the flyleaves of books, leaving unfinished letters tucked into books, and just sending and receiving a lot of handwritten letters in general.

I was struck by how well the characters were defined by the brands, foods, and other objects that they chose. To me, this was the best, most interesting revelation of the book.

I was expecting the book to be funnier and more ridiculous, but it took its subjects very seriously. I wanted the overall tone to be more like page 120, with the "irreparable damage...as if struck by a hammer" and the "I did not handle that at all well..."

And, of course, being me, I can't accept the fact that Wuthering Heights is listed as being written by Charlotte Brontë. How did that get by the editor? ( )
  thatotter | Feb 6, 2014 |
I love the idea of this book, the story of a couples' relationship told through the format of an auction catalog. And Leanne Shapton carries out the project well, with a wide range of "lots" (from gifts to clothes to books to shopping lists, notes, &c.) and just enough contextual info to keep things moving and gradually fill in the narrative, which is rather a sad one overall.

Of course there's something fairly odd about the pair's belongings being sold at auction like this - why would folks sell off their t-shirts and bras and books and suits and things several years after their breakup? There's no clear reason offered for this, and no context given for why an auction house would even sell such things (do they specialize in such sales?). A bit of this, just for the skeptical reader like me, would have gone a long way. ( )
  JBD1 | Feb 12, 2013 |
"I enjoyed this primarily a tongue-in-cheek poking of fun at the auction world not as a story about a relationship."
read more: http://likeiamfeasting.blogspot.com/2013/01/important-artifacts-and-leanne-shapt... ( )
  mongoosenamedt | Jan 14, 2013 |
Brilliantly original and beautifully poignant. The format gave a surprisingly intimate portrayal of relationship. Such a clever concept and so brilliantly executed. ( )
1 vote kazzablanca | Mar 27, 2011 |
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'That ashtray stood beside the bed. On the lady's side.' 'I'll certainly treasure the memento', I said. 'If ashtrays could speak, sir.' 'Indeed, yes.' - Graham Greene, The End of the Affair
We seek the absolute everywhere, and only ever find things - Novalis
For Adam Penn Gilders
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We have decided to introduce this catalog with text from a postcard written in 2008 by Harold Morris, whose items are being auctioned off here, along with those of Lenore Doolan, and objects given to the couple by friends and family.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0374175306, Paperback)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, February 2009: What is love? Artist Leanne Shapton may be the first person to answer this age-old question so persuasively, if not damn-near definitively. Her vision of love--that famously immaterial virtue--finds its best expression in the stuff of our daily lives. Which, of course, may not be as filled with the serendipitous charm that marks the courtship of her fictional lovers, but that doesn't make Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry feel any less universal. We meet Lenore and Hal after their relationship has ended; that the relics of their life--spent in fits and starts of togetherness--are presented in a Valentine's Day auction catalog has the potential to strike a bitter chord. What comes across instead is that these items, ranging widely from gifts, postcards, and photos to conspiratorial notes and precious evidence of daily rituals, deserve to be cherished for the love they still so clearly honour. --Anne Bartholomew

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:28:14 -0400)

The story of a romantic relationship is told in the form of a catalog from the auction of objects previously owned by the fictional couple.

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