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The Object Parade: Essays Hardcover – April 15, 2014
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In her collection of interconnected essays, Lenney (Bigger Than Life, 2007) explores ways in which the physical objects in her life tether her to memories as well as relationships past and present. Each seemingly innocuous object featured here—a watch, metronome, spoon, or table, for example—brings with it a story or vignette, and Lenney uses this as a springboard to examine moments in her life while looking, sometimes hesitantly, toward the future. In “Ferris Wheel,” a spontaneous trip to a park with her two young children evolves into a rumination over her daughter’s imminent transition to adulthood. In the standout “Nests,” the perturbing chorus of a mourning dove connects Lenney to haunting memories of her sister’s struggle with mental health. In “Little Black Dress” and its counterpart, “Little Black Dress, Two,” the eponymous trusted garment appears to lose its luster despite its cherished memories, forcing Lenney to confront her anxieties. Lenney draws upon her experiences as a working actor and mother, offering a reflective and candid look at the connection between sentiment and necessity. --Leah Strauss
"Dinah Lenney has done something smart. She’s come up with a solution to the essayist’s dilemma. She’s figured out a way to stay true to the form of the essay digressive, skeptical, friendly, and brief in the Age of the Memoir." Los Angeles Review of Books
"The essays are a poignant reminder of the way certain objects around us shape our lives and become a touchstone for our personal memories." Fast Company
"[Lenney] follows her vision like a North Star, and her faith is ultimately rewarded. Her stories will stick with you, long after the object of a book has faded."-Los Angeles Times
"What Lenney has created in The Object Parade is a linguistically rich meditation on all types of human connectionboth with ourselves and each other." The Nervous Breakdown
"How better to track the stages, shape, and meaning of a life than by way of the significant objects in it? But Dinah Lenney is a good deal more than clever. Every object she embraces in this beautifully-wrought book -- the piano, the Christmas tree, the mole, the green earrings -- discloses the compressed and hidden power of things, the nouns with which we write our lives. Piece by piece, the author reveals herself as a first rate observer in possession of a kind and generous mind -- the most treasurable object in her rich parade.” Roger Rosenblatt
"The Object Parade is a wonderful bookan inquiry, a quest. The relation of objects to individuals is perhaps its secret charm. It doesn't simply narrate underneath is the persistent urgency to understand, to consider, beyond the joys and anguish of the self, the meaning of these bright and sometimes out-of-focus slides that pass before us, revealing not only a life but a growing consciousness. I read with deep pleasure and that sensation of being in a book, that is rarer than it should be." Patricia Hampl
Spoon, piano, flight jacket, Ferris wheelThe Object Parade courts tactile memory. Driven by Dinah Lenney's distinctive, insouciant voice, at once engagingly authoritative and tenaciously self-questioning, the heft of a guitar, smell of chicken simmering, or ticking metronome are brought to life again, then re-examined under the magnifying glass of time. The story of family and fate (with its rich panoply of relationship and revelation) unfolds here as "one thing" does inevitably "lead to another" in the hands of an author who gives us genuine insight at its subtle, insistent best.”Judith Kitchen, author of Half in Shade and The Circus Train
"From politics to the piano to the lament of a mourning dove, Dinah Lenney looks life in the eye and never finds it wanting. Like Proust's madeleines, her "objects" scent the terrain of this book with memories from the evanescent to the profound. The world itself, examined with joy, shines out through each small detail. You will love this book, one object at a time, right down to its very end."Linda Gray Sexton, author of Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother, Anne Sexton and Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide.
The Object Parade is a rich, poignant homage to, quite literally, the stuff of life. Lenney is a gifted essayist, but her ear for the riddles and rhythms of language reveals the sensibilities of a poeteven a musician. She doesn't just write to us. She sings to us. You won't just read this collection, you will hear it.”Meghan Daum
Dinah Lenney's marvel of a book is both unflinching and confiding. Her subjects are, ostensibly, the familiar objects of daily life. But no matter what this writer sets her sights on--a scarf, a coffee scoop, a pair of shoes--its sure to yield unexpected meanings, intricate histories, and memorable stories. The objects in this parade quickly transcend their personal significance to the writer and stir the reader with a sharpened sense of life's pleasures and risks. Lenney knows that everything we touch has the power to change us.” Bernard Cooper
..heart-stopping..This creatively structured book remains an enjoyable read, and the standout essays merit the price of admission.” Publishers Weekly
A pensive perusal of the objects that can define and shape a life the collection’s pieces build on each other, layer upon vivid layer of Lenney’s personal history, her heart firmly invested in hearth and home One of the book’s most moving entries also happens to be its shortest: a strikingly gorgeous, two-page homage to Lenney’s daughter, portrayed as a young girl bouncing in the sun trailing a kite flush with bright streamers. An eclectic treasury of the cherished and the evocative.” Kirkus Reviews
Praise for Bigger Than Life:
A Los Angeles Times Bestseller (March 2007)
A brilliant contribution to autobiographical, literary non-fiction; the author takes us right into her con¬sciousness, and recreates thought and feelings with passion and restraint. This book is a model of engaged and engaging memoir-writing.”Phillip Lopate
I read this in one sitting, transported into the life of a man I now feel I knew personally. It’s a compel¬ling story about death and the way life goes on around itbeautifully written and perfectly orchestrated, a book that is as enlightening as it is easy to read.”Susan Cheever
Before his murder, Dinah Lenney’s father was Bigger than Life but looms larger in death.”Elissa Schappell, Vanity Fair
This affecting memoir ends on a note of grace as Lenney acknowledges her hard-won peace with her father’s memory and his murder Such transcendent realizations elevate Bigger Than Life beyond an account of the bombastic life and brutal death of Nelson Gross to speak of life and healing found in the midst of tragedy.” Paula L. Woods, The Los Angeles Times Book Review
The subject matter is grim but the writing is anything but, as Lenney, with an artful layering of details and remembered conversations, brings her complex, confounding father back to literary life.” Los Angeles Magazine
Vivid, revealing, and meditative. . . . [This] is a book well worth reading, not only for some dazzling chapters and evocative details about the American justice system, but also for the contribution it makes to the body of American literature about fathers.”Fourth Genre
A driving vocal performancetour de force momentum for pages at a stretch, and studded throughout with hard-earned human insight. While Lenney can be bracingly acerbic, the affection moving through this work is tidal.”Sven Birkerts
In one sense, [Lenney’s] book can be seen as therapy, a way of purging a decade’s worth of inner turmoil. But the story also explores a broader issue, the way the death of one man can affect the lives of many people. . . . Not a typical survivor's autobiography,’ but a deeply affecting one.”Booklist
Top customer reviews
After finishing her account of her father's brutal and senseless murder, having lost my own father suddenly and unexpectedly, I found myself relating to all her unanswered questions, as she learned to cope with grief. Realizing how much courage it must have taken her to put those words on paper made me want to read more from this author. So I didn't hesitate when ordering Ms. Lenney's recently published essay collection.
In THE OBJECT PARADE she humbly hints that we're only as important as the inanimate things that cross our path, inherited maternally, paternally and otherwise, and that these objects hold power over us, possessing a personification that lives on even long after we're gone. Objects like single earrings and plastic coffee scoops regarded as amulets, that we worry if lost might disrupt the harmony of our lives.
In our daily, hectic routines we never seem to find the time to share our family history with our children. Through these essays we watch the author grow physically, mentally, and spiritually, along with her own children, as she experiences the milestones to maturity, including moving away, marriage, vacation, in-laws, awkward dinner parties, holidays, religion, birth, death, not to mention a sister's tragedy averted, and how objects, large and small, all play a part.
The first thought that came to mind when I finished this collection was that every child should be so fortunate as the author's to be gifted with this book, not just an object made of paper but a beautiful legacy.
Among my favorite essays are:
"Chicken Stew," where all of Dinah's good intentions for an intellectually stimulating dinner party among simpatico guests turns into a major social disaster.
"Flight Jacket," which explores parental expectations between mothers and daughters, and the disappointments that accompany these relationships.
"Little Black Dress, Two," that delves into the actor's life, with all of the pitfalls of loving your art and yet not always being able to practice it to the fullest. It's a heartbreaking piece, buoyed by the family component that makes her unfulfilled success in the arts more bearable and yet still worth the effort and tears.
There are 32 essays, and both a prologue and epilogue, that use objects to help anchor memories, and all of them are a joy to experience. Funny, sad, intimate, with melancholy and celebration throughout. A terrific read, from start to finish.