Significant Objects

"100 extraordinary stories about ordinary things. A literary and economic experiment." 2012
Significant Objects
Significant Objects (image in catalog)

I picked this book off the shelf without knowing the back story on it. I thought it odd that is was in the fiction section, as it seemed to be a book that might be connected with Antiques Roadshow.  I opened it up to a page with a wine glass that had a Women & Infants logo. Wondering what the story was behind that I started reading and found myself pulled into a story about  family lies, abandonment, reunion, understanding and forgiveness. This, along with some great wine reviews. All on a single page!  (Tasting Notes, by Jeff Turrentine). Next I started reading a description of a pink horse toy with marabou feathers for its mane and tail. Whoa-within the page, there was child neglect, an addict mother and the death of her daughters, or did the lady with the pink hair take them somewhere better? She remains haunted by all things pink. (Pink Horse, by Kate Bernheimer).

The premise behind this book is that stories give objects value. The editors (Joshua Glenn & Rob Walker) collected items from garage sales and thrift shops and gave them to various authors (some more well known than others) to create stories about them.  They then put the items on e-bay, using the stories as descriptions. They were upfront about the descriptions being fictional. All of the items sold for more than they had been purchased for, many significantly more.

Some reviewed this book as a cynical marketer’s scam. Ad Week pointed out that objects can obviously have their value increased through a robust back story-it’s called advertising. But what was for sale in this instance was more than just the objects, it was the stories themselves. One could “own” a story written by a favorite author, along with the object that inspired it.

While I feel no pull to buy any of the objects, I am enjoying the stories. The hard part is taking my time to savor them, when what I want to do is keep reading through to the end. As stated on NPR, what is fun about this book is finding magic in unexpected places.


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