Precious high concept.
Love notes slipped in book covers,
shattered plastic, too.
The core conceit of this book is simple: it is an auction house catalogue of a now-broken-up couple's stuff. That framework is used to tell the story of their meeting, their relationship, their tribulation, & their breakup. Instead of seeming trite, the concept actually holds up under weight, & Shapton doesn't try to wriggle out from under it; there aren't interjections or deviations from the format. The bulk of the "narrative" is contained in notes, found in pockets, folded up as bookmarks, scribbled on playbills, written on postcards. They are listed with their respective articles, in chronological order. The couple in question certainly are a bunch of Metropolis bourgeoisie; he a globe trotting photographer, her a New York Times food columnist. Heck, I'm not hating; the author is a contributor to the Grey Lady (art director for the op-ed page) & while I may find "write what you know" to be a pretty tame parable, it adds versmilitude in this case. The story really does read as personal, private; there are weird dangling emails with exes, there are stupid fights & reasonable fights, sturm & drang, all with a yuppie tinge that transforms it from melodrama to a real viable drama. The items look forlorn on the page, sentiments abandoned, keepsakes tossed aside, with the details vibrant-- the track listings of mix cds, the menus of holiday meals. In the end it leaves you glad it is fiction; the disintegration of the relationship is believable, & even though it certainly draws on Shapton's life & romances, it is a relief to know there never was a Doolan & Morris. Better to have loved & lost in fiction then never to have loved at all? This is also strangely timed; I started it yesterday & almost immediately discovered that Brad Pitt & Natalie Portman have been cast in a forth coming film. Adapting a conceptual work like this must be a real joy (edit: sarcasm).