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À la Cart: The Secret Lives of Grocery Shoppers Hardcover – March 9, 2010

4.7 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Ever since she was a teenager, performance artist and author Carlip (Queen of the Oddballs: And Other True Stories from a Life Unaccording to Plan) has been collecting strangers' lost shopping lists and imaging the lives and people behind them. With the help of expertly applied makeup and outlandish costumes, Carlip has turned herself into the men and women that she imagined. From a wife-seeking, Fu Manchu–mustached redneck to an octogenarian stand-up comic, a washed-up lesbian rock star to a 20-something goth boy, Carlip takes inspiration from both the mundane—potatoes—and the disturbing—mousetraps, cheese, mouse. The 26 vivid photographic portraits and accompanying narratives display the author's humor, grace and a brilliantly creative eye. Carlip's alter egos are larger than life and twice as entertaining. Fans of Sloane Tanen's Bitter with Baggage Seeks Same should flock to this hilarious, delightful, unique achievement. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

Carlip, the self-described “queen of the oddballs” (from the title of her acclaimed memoir), draws on her love of story, passion for performance and transformation, eye for found art, and gift for comedic and empathic improvisation in a unique portrait gallery. A populist Cindy Sherman, an American Tracey Ullman, a female Eddie Murphy, and a disciple of Lily Tomlin, Carlip used her quirky collection of discarded shopping lists as inspiration for 26 characters, assuming the identity of men and women shoppers of various ages, backgrounds, and preoccupations. Carlip poses with great verve in brightly colored store aisles as Kim, a leathery biker momma grasping a bottle of Jack Daniels, her shopping list a tattered piece of red paper with “Jimmy Den” and “soda” crossed off and “Liqor” written assertively four times. Then there’s supermom June and her meticulously typed list for her Tourette’s-afflicted son’s birthday party; flannel-shirt-wearing, Fu Manchued Woody; tattooed punk pinup Heather; and lonely healthy-eater Fran. Each of Carlip’s ingeniously composed, funny, and insightful vignettes is a microcosm of struggle and hope. --Donna Seaman
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Virgin Books (March 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1905264178
  • ISBN-13: 978-1905264179
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,083,807 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Hillary Carlip is first and foremost a comedienne as her previous 'autobiographical' book QUEEN OF THE ODDBALLS confirmed. But at the heart of comedy is tragedy, something every fine writer of comedy understands, and it is that turn of words that makes a potentially tragic story the seed of comedy. In her newest book A LA CART: THE SECRET LIVES OF GROCERY SHOPPERS Carlip has selected the idea of exploring the creators of random shopping lists found in markets, parking lots, and other unlikely places and from these tidbits of notations she has created the persons who wrote them - which turns out to be twenty six individuals whose lives become the matrix for Carlip to bring to the performance stage of this book. Each character is imagined with insight and sensitivity and then physically transformed into a 'real person' by the actress Carlip and her crew of makeup artist, costume designer, and, very importantly, her photographer, Barbara Green.

In this very well-designed book are images of the found lists, the 'characters' who wrote them as impersonated by Carlip and photographed by Green in the marketplaces the characters might have used, accompanied by a short story about each person, written with great skill and humor and pathos by Carlip. It is a 'compleat' experience as we are allowed to meet each of the 26 list writers, people who range from hookers, to porn stars, to teenagers, to coupon clipping ex-quilter Helen, a street person, a therapist who is clearly out of joint, to Latinas with oddly utilized cafés or frustrated careers as airline hostesses, Latinos of varying sexual persuasion - the list is so varied that it includes men and women whose lives at first seem comical, but whose emotional states are at times in tatters.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Before I could even open my new copy of Hillary Carlip's , A La Cart, my 18 year-old daughter snatched it away and read it cover to cover. When I finally got it back, she hung over my shoulder as I read, laughing again at each character and their grocery list. The premise; make up characters based on their discarded grocery list and then have clever photographer shoot you playing all the characters.

One reason she likes it so much is because we've always played what we call "airport people." When we wait for our flight, we take turns making up bios about the people waiting around us.
We also grab left over grocery store lists from the bottom of random carts. We've just never put the two together. But we will now.

Her favorites: Darcy, the punker who grew up listening to The Dead Kennedy's and wants to be a comic book author.
Derrick, who listed, Mouse Traps, cheese and mouse on his post it note. Ooh,,the goth guy.
My fave: Lloyd, hunched over in his motorized wheelchair, trying to adjust to wife Sylvia's death and Woody who wrote: Coors and oreos on the inside of box of matches. Love THAT!
The photographer, Barbara Green, does an amazing job with each shot. Woody made the front cover with his package of Oreos. .

It's a fun, lively book, great gift for,,anyone, even jaded teenagers like mine.

I just wonder what Carlip would create from MY grocery list this week: Beer, bagels, bread, bacon and brownie mix.

My to do list: Get the Oddball book next.
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Format: Hardcover
Hillary Carlip has been collecting found shopping lists for over twenty-five years. She has carefully imagined the lives of the list-writers and created personas for them. Dressing up as the characters, she morphs from a young Vietnamese immigrant to a porn star, from a gay Cuban man to stroke-addled aged woman. The make-up and hair work for each character is perfection. She is convincing in all her poses. Funny, touching, radically original- put it on your shopping list!
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Format: Hardcover
I was a huge fan of Hillary Carlip's last book - "Queen of the Oddballs" - her insights and humor and compassion in her writing felt fresh and funny and very alive. I have to say I think she may have topped herself with 'A La Cart' . Who hasn't seen a grocery list and wondered the kind of person who wrote it?? Well, now we know. I don't know who I love more -- Graciela, June or Pammy. I confess Troy scares me just a little.

Hillary brings performance art to the pages with these brilliant characterizations and amazing photographs. This would make a great gift too. I'm just saying...
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ever since first reading Hillary Carlip's previous book, Queen of the Oddballs, I've lamented the fact that I haven't been able to see her performance art. Well, a la Cart is the next best thing. Easy to read and hard to put down, this book cracked me up from beginning to end. Although hard pressed to pick a favorite, I will say that I love Jet and think I need to start seeing Dr. Bloom. I can't get over the fact that Tuyen, Lloyd and Millie are the same person underneath it all! I'll never look at a shopping list the same way again!
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Format: Hardcover
Bought it, read cover to cover in one sitting. Bought it for my mother, my father got jealous. It's my new "just because" present. My roommate stole it from me. Am I bitter? No! The more people that read this smart, hilarious, and slightly insane (in a great way!) book, the better. Color me a huge A la Cart fan!
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