Monday, September 21, 2009

Significant Objects

I was approached last week by the web-based literary/conceptual-art project Significant Objects to write a short story inspired by this item--a ceramic choirboy figurine. I am not one to shy away from a wacky project, so here's the result, one long sentence about a mother, a boy, another boy, and a choirboy.

The gimmick here isn't just the object and the story, but that the object is actually for sale on eBay. All proceeds evidently go...to me. So if you want me to have a nice lunch in a week or so, put in a bid.

My personal enrichment aside, I must say that I think this is a great idea, and wish more editors would toss us writers a bone like this more often. There is nothing to get the creative juices flowing like arbitrary restrictions arriving unexpectedly in one's email inbox. It's a testament to the desire among writers for such schemes that the list of participants on the S.O. site is quite long, and features a number of writers who are a lot famouser than I am, and could probably make more lucrative use of their time.

But it's hard to imagine a more pleasurable use for it. Here's to random literary stunts.

10 comments:

Einar said...

Two hours ago, if someone told me J Robert Lennon is going to cause you not only to sign up for ebay, but also to bid on a choirboy figurine, I have told that person they were batshit crazy.
It may be a light lunch, but I want that sentence.

jrlennon said...

Ha ha, thank you! If it's just the sentence you want, though, let me recommend ctrl-C, then ctrl-V.

sjwoo said...

Killer stuff. Love the hexagonal window, the way it enters and returns -- I can totally see it.

Jay Livingston said...

Tangential but.... I just read Leanne Shapton's Important Artifacts. . . , a novel in the form of an auction catalogue. The idea is that the objects in the catalogue tell the story of the relationship. I'm curious to know what others thought of it, if anyone has read it. http://leanneshapton.com/importantartifacts.html

jrlennon said...

I haven't read that yet, but I heard about it and loved the idea. Quite jealous of it in fact!

Jay Livingston said...

JR, I found it disappointing in two ways. First, despite all the photographs of the characters and excerpts from their letters, they seemed (to me at least) very flat or empty. Second, the photos of the objects are b&w and have a dull quality. So neither the objects nor the characters had much vibrancy or life. A more expensively produced version might have helped (though the price probably would have killed sales).

I remember years ago hearing a story on NPR about a person who was "selling his life on e-Bay." Same idea, though this was supposedly real life. I was immediately reminded of Carver's "Why Don't You Dance."

Gary said...

I'm not going to bid because the last thing I want is something below even my deluded sense of good taste, but those characters had an immediate reality, and the sentence itself overcame all the inherent tricksiness of the long-sentence-form task.

On another note, who is the greatest master of the long sentence? I'll nominate Nikolai Gogol in Dead Souls.

jrlennon said...

The reason I wrote it as one sentence--and I did so without any forethought at all--is that I had just re-read Katherine Davis's "Hell" for a class I'm teaching, and one of its many voices is that of a household-advice writer who has gone mad and has written a rambling, book-length memoir that is one long sentence. It was really sticking in my head...

Einar said...

I won! I won! I won! For the life of me I can't explain why this is such exciting news.

Order anything you like for lunch, but may I suggest selecting something from the 'all-you-can-eat' menu lest you wither away.

Thanks for a great conversation piece and I look forward to shelving your next novel close by.

Zachary Cole said...

Curses! Bested by that last half dollar! :)

Enjoy the story and statue, Einar.