Important Artifacts and Personal Property From the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including: Books, Street Fashion and Jewelry by Leanne Shapton (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 133 pages, $18 paper).
There is nothing the slightest bit new anymore about disguising nonfiction as fiction or fiction as nonfiction. The "false document" as E. L. Doctorow, among hordes of others pointing it out, has been with us a long time indeed (see, for instance, Defoe, Cervantes and Rabelais.) But here IS something new: a fiction about a romance that waxes and wanes (and waxes again) which is presented as an auction catalog, complete with photographs.
The creator is Leanne Shapton, an illustrator, writer and publisher originally from Toronto who is now gainfully employed earning her breakfast by, among other things, laying out the New York Times Op-Ed page.
Her fictional couple is Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris and her tale in the form of an auction catalog begins with a "4x6" photograph of 26-year-old Lenore at her "desk at New York Times, 2002" and a 2-by-2 2002 "passport photograph of Harold Morris, Age 39." It ends, rather hauntingly, with parallel artifacts, unwittingly kept by each, after the romance died.
In between is evidence of a life together and lots and lots of books, from a worn out ("much foxing to cover" in book catalog speak) copy of Updike's "Couples" inscribed by Morris with Radiohead lyrics to a collection of Duane Michals photography books inscribed by Doolan to Morris "More from your hero."
So the lives within are as ravenously urban and culturally allusive as those in a Donald Barthelme story, but all we can do is follow the narrative from the detritus left behind and jettisoned randomly back into urban culture from whence it came.
Shapton's Novalis epigraph to the book, in fact, covers it very nicely: "we seek the absolute everywhere and only find things."
-- Jeff Simon