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Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry First Edition Edition

27 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 860-1401029946
ISBN-10: 0374175306
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Editorial Reviews Review

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


“Taken together, the item descriptions provide a running, cumulative portrait of one couple’s glorious rise and deflating fall. . . For people who have ever thought that the little gestures, tokens and inside jokes of their relationships were unique to them, Ms. Shapton’s book comes as a poignant, jarring reminder of the sameness of the steps that so many couples retrace. . . Despite the mist of melancholy that floats amid this photographic record, there is also humor, caprice, knowingness and the implicit suggestion that changing feelings and fading possessions can’t rob a true romance of the value it had at its height. As Lenore and Hal’s remembrances show, a love affair is worth more than its trappings could fetch at a jumble sale.” —Liesl Schillinger, The New York Times
Important Artifacts . . . from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris may look like an everyday auction catalog. But the auction itself is a literary conceit: What this book-type object really does is show us the trajectory of a failed four-year relationship — by showing us the physical detritus that two (fictional) lovers leaver in their wake.
    “Conceived and executed by the art director of the New York Times Op-Ed page, Leanne Shapton, the story concerns Lenore Doolan (a food writer for the Times) and Hal Morris (a photographer). Doolan appears to have been a clever and adoring girlfriend, who showered the often-absent Morris with confetti-packed envelopes (LOT 1126) and lavender pajamas (LOT 1061). Morris, who had commitment issues and a drinking problem, expressed himself via mixtapes (LOTS 1276 and 1044). What finally drove them apart? Each of the 331 lots provides another piece of the puzzle. Yes, breaking up is hard to do, but reading about it has never been so pleasurable.” —Very Short List
“[Shapton's] book tells the story of a hopeful young New York couple and their four-year relationship almost completely through their things, many of which end up unceremoniously, and improbably, under the gavel: books, pajamas, bedside lamps, a stuffed squirrel, an astrakhan coat, the winning half of a wishbone and lots of notes, inscriptions and e-mail messages that start out giddy and become slowly more complicated, angry and sorrowful.
    “If there were a real failed-relationship auction house named Strachan & Quinn, where the sale is supposed to take place on Valentine’s Day, the event might actually draw a modest crowd, if only because the fictional Hal Morris, a globe-trotting photographer in his early 40s, and Lenore Doolan, who is presented as a late-20s cake columnist for The Times’s Dining section, are generally more meticulous than conspicuous in their consumption.” — Randy Kennedy, The New York Times
“The task is daunting: How to render the dissolution of a relationship in a new way? Leanne Shapton succeeds against all odds with this wildly romantic and erudite book.”   —Dave Eggers, What is the What
“Leanne Shapton’s splendid book is completely sensational and over-the-top great.  I am nuts about it.  This is the stuff of life, literally.  Oh, love. Oh, despair.   Oh, stolen salt shakers.”—Maira Kalman, The Principles of Uncertainty
“Whenever I come across something of Leanne Shapton’s—an illustration in The New York Times, or the wooden books she makes—I feel like I have found a hidden treasure.  What a great idea—to create a fake auction catalog. It’s so original, and the items are perfect and brilliantly displayed.  Shapton thought of every detail. I truly am jealous.”—Amy Sedaris, I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books; First Edition edition (February 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374175306
  • ASIN: B004KAB4LU
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 0.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,542,578 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Virgina Colson on March 4, 2009
Format: Paperback
Much has been made of how original and unusual the format of this book is--an auction catalog, selling off the ephemera of a failed relationship--and that's true, but it's also deliciously fun to read and a great love story. The particulars, such as 10 postcards sent by Hal to Lenore during an early business trip, one to "my gray-eyed princess" one reading "Pissing rain here, work boring, missing you and thinking of your face all the time/ all the time /all the time..." feel universal, and will be sort of heartbreaking to anyone familiar with early-stage besotment. About halfway through, I found myself starting to feel sad and worried that they're going to break up (you know it's coming) and wishing that they could just work it out. And not to give anything away, but the breakup is just as caddish and dirty and over-articulated as breakups are in real life. Leanne Shapton has proven herself to be brilliant with the telling, hilarious details of relationships (her last book entitled "Was she pretty?" for the question she asks about a boyfriend's ex-girlfriend) and the items in the catalog (the silver-plated cup the couple kept their toothbrushes in, Valentines Day menus, a collection of hotel key cards) are often as poignant as the words. I loved this book!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Lolly on June 11, 2009
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When I read about this book, I was struck by what an incredible idea it was. It is a good piece of conceptual art, but a little cute with too may name brands, which ultimately make this feel like yuppie porn. Rather than making the characters specific, all of the high end name dropping makes it kind of smarmy and in the end hollow where it should be touching and universal.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By dizzyweasel VINE VOICE on October 11, 2010
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The concept of this novel (photo essay? manifest? collage?) is to present the auction catalog of the property of defunct couple Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris as it relates to their relationship. Through the stark, material lot descriptions of the detritus of coupledom, the author presents the falling in and out of love in a plausible, understated manner. We see numbers exchanged on napkins, polaroids, emails, letters, gifts, menus, and agendas from the couple's 4-year courtship laid out in chronological order.

Some lots speak for themselves - letters exchanged by the couple, notes sent to friends, but the subtle nuances, the underlying evidence examines the psychology of a relationship. What the couple tells one another is contrasted and contradicted by letters sent (and, more poignantly, unsent) to friends, appointments made on the sly, possible betrayals (for example, Lenore makes a date with an ex-boyfriend, and later in the catalog we see Harold carrying an umbrella we are told belongs to the ex-boyfriend, left in Lenore's apartment - when was it left? did she cheat? we don't know). In notes to themselves, private musings, Harold and Lenore are ambivalent, doubt, make lists of pros and cons, visit therapists. But all the while, for a couple of years anyway, they present a loving, happy face to one another. Only later does the relationship collapse on itself, weighed down by the crushing force of incompatibility too long ignored. Harold reminiscences about ex-girlfriends, travels too frequently, gives Lenore gifts of things that belonged to other women in his life, resents Lenore's burgeoning career as a columnist.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By M. Majury on January 5, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
With the outcome known if you have read reviews or featured articles about the book, it is with a voyeuristic morbidity you view the book. You know they will not end up together and so you look for the clues to the unraveling of the relationship. It makes you think about your own archeological digs when contemplating an ended love affair which is rather depressing. The mood captured, either by intent or not, is of a dated perspective on love and relationships. It as if two people, too in love with living a lifestyle that ended thirty- to forty-years ago found each other, and got lost in the affectations of love, as opposed to the working on the reality of a relationship. And, maybe that's the point. It was hard to determine who the real Hal and Lenore were. Were they two people who loved vintage, literature to excess, vintage clothing and expensive gifts that captured their current mask? Or, were they just two people who were too narcissistic and self-absorbed in the persona they present to the outside world to drop it inside a relationship?

Even with these questions, there is a sense of doom from the moment you open the book and see the black and white photographs. You read it, examine their lives, analyze the meaning behind the items to be auctioned off, and know it all is leading to the dissolution of their relationship. This does not lead to a sense of optimism, but instead a practical dread of inevitability.

Ultimately, you wonder why they would then dump everything to do with the relationship if it was that painful. And, the "artifacts" do not indicate this was anything other than a passionate infatuation for two people who were trying on a "relationship".
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