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Significant Objects Book Tells Stories About Thrift Store Junk

Tue, Aug 7, 2012

Books, Pop Culture

A few weeks back — in a¬†post about how clutter can be as big an issue¬†in relationships as money or sex — we mentioned a forthcoming¬†book,¬†Significant Objects: 100 Extraordinary Stories About Everything. Well, the book just came out yesterday! So we’d like to tell you a little¬†more about it.

Significant Objects began its life on eBay, as a sort of literary and anthropological experiment:¬†the editors (New York Times Magazine¬†writer Rob Walker — you might remember his awesome¬†“Consumed” column¬†– and Em‚Äôs old friend Josh Glenn of¬†HiLoBrow.com) wanted¬†to see if attaching a fictional backstory to a thrift-store tchotchke would increase its value (turns out it did — they split the proceeds between the writers and a number of charities).

The objects were divided into four categories of significance: fossils (“Bears mute witness to a vanished way of life.”), evidence (“Implicated in a crime or public event.”), totem (“Offers wisdom from the natural world.), talisman (“Magical, lucky, and/or alive.”), and idol (“Intense complication lends it an aura.” ) Bet you never thought of any of that last time you were in a Salvation Army store!¬†The book also organizes the stories and objects into groups that will be more familiar to thrift-store shoppers, based on the items’ original intended use: novelty items, figurines, kitsch, toys, etc. The editors then crunched data to see how the categories affected the final price.¬†You can read more about the process involved¬†on their website here.

The editors ended up with more than two hundred miniature stories and chose a hundred of their favorite to publish in a book. The writers range from bloggers to first-time authors to bigger names like Nicholson Baker, Jonathem Lethem, Neil LaBute, Curtis Sittenfeld, Matthew Sharpe, and Luc Sante. And for the record, author fame didn’t necessarily result in a higher eBay profit.¬†The book is a significant object in itself — it’s published by Fantagraphics and is gorgeously designed and organized.

Here are some quotes from a few of our favorite love-related stories in the book (though you can pretty much open the book at random and found an awesome story — it’s the most attractive bathroom book you’ll ever own):

“Again, it’s not that I’m unhappy, but I will say that when I open the drawer of the dressing table where I keep these little dogs, they’re such an unsettling reminder that sometimes just seeing them, my breath catches.” — Curtis Sittenfeld, writing about a spotted dog figurine and a woman who may or may not have married the wrong man.

“ALL AMERICAN NECKING TEAM, the pin read. It was hard to reconcile the words with my father.” — Susannah Breslin, writing about a necking team button and a man trying to imagine a time before he was born — and a father who may or may not have been just like his son.

“He is not the only person I have loved whose constitution was at war with his calling, but he handled it rather better than some.” — Shelley Jackson, writing about a crumb sweeper and a werewolf who was allergic to dust, dander, and dogs.

Significant Objects is on sale now. You can read more at SignificantObjects.com.

Read the rest of this post at SUNfiltered

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