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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on March 4, 2009
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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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 2009
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
VINE VOICEon October 11, 2010
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. Lenore has a short temper, is much younger than Harold, cannot decide what she wants out of life, tries to daub the cracks in their love life with thoughtful gifts and food. Like most real world relationships, it ends not with a bang, but a whimper: trips ending in tears and indecision, a pregnancy scare, indifference, and finally a break that turns into a break-up.

One of the strengths of the novel is that the author has created a couple that puts on such a convincing show of functionality and appeal. If you knew them, you'd admire them. They seem so together and fun - they travel, fill their apartment with bizarre kitsch, dress in beautiful vintage clothing, photograph well, and in all respects put on the mask of perfection you so often see in couples with whom you're acquainted and wish you could be like. Perhaps the message is that underneath the trappings, the stuff, the facade, no relationship is ever what it seems.

All that said, I give this novel 3 stars, as it failed to arouse any strong feelings in me either way. Like a lengthy relationship that has long since reached its natural end, this book evokes neither love nor hate, just the resigned acceptance that it was what it was.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2010
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 2013
Fresh and innovative ideas are infuriatingly rare these days so right away I'll say I like very much what Shapton does here: rather than giving us yet another story of a broken romance, she tells it through an auction house catalogue of the articles the couple gathered during their courtship and now want to dispose of. Great idea. Unfortunately, despite all the effort she's put into this work, it's not hugely interesting to read. After all, once you've looked at about the 50th picture of a knick-knack and read the auctioneer's blurb, you realise you are reading about a failed love affair between a somewhat highly-strung woman and an older film maker who is on the road a lot. I didn't find either of them particularly interesting and didn't really care what happened to them, which is rather a drawback, since you need strong characters to make the reader want to finish the work and discover why the two of them split up.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2010
I let a friend of mine borrow this mock catalog, and he remarked, "What a mean thing to do to a tree, to turn it into a book as bad as this one!" Well, I didn't share his disdain but I will say Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry, was not what I was hoping it would be. Full marks for the originality of the concept, but after that, well, I don't know what else might have been included in the content that could have sustained the razor-thin plot and transformed it into an interesting book of this length. Reading Important Artifacts did, as my title shows, make me halt and ponder the question I asked up there, but beyond that....shrug. The book was just barely worth finishing.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 19, 2009
I looooved this book. Imagining the relationship between these two people, and their two characters, using the possessions and momentos as the only clues -- I couldn't put it down.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 29, 2009
The most unique piece of fiction I've ever read, with a concept that I've never come across before. The `love story' of two people - Lenore and Harold - is told through a series of photographs and memorabilia that are up for auction. There is very little text (aside from the description of various items and photos) so there is a lot left for your imagination. I loved that part; the author allows your mind to completely wander and yet the memorabilia still manages to fill in the blanks. Is Shapton a good writer? We can't tell from such limited text, but she's certainly creative and for that alone it deserves a read. And yes, I will admit to thinking this was `real' when I first picked it up; the cover looks like an auction catalog, so I had no clue.. at first.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 25, 2009
an imaginary estate sale from a 3-4 year long relationship between a 39 yr old photographer and 26 yr old ny times food columnist. brilliant idea. the female protagonist is played by canadian author sheila heti. the characters could have been a little--if not much--more interesting. still, the concept carries it through. a fun read about a kind of archetypal NYC lifestyle. also inspired me to be more of a pack rat.
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VINE VOICEon June 14, 2014
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.
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