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Sunday, March 31, 2019

Book Review, 'Guestbook,' By Leanne Shapton | Book Reviews - NPR

Leanne Shapton, author, artist and publisher based in New York City, is an artist of the mundane. Her books mix writing, prose collage, photography and watercolor to imbue familiar objects and dull routines with mystery and emotional weight.

Ghost Stories
by Leanne Shapton
 Hardcover, 293 pages

In her 2012 memoir Swimming Studies, Shapton transformed pools and swimsuits into representations of her past selves. In 2014's Women in Clothes, she and co-editors Heidi Julavits and Sheila Heti turned hundreds of interviews and images into a monumental reflection on self-presentation. Her latest project, Guestbook, borrows techniques from both. This time, however, her subject is ghosts.
Guestbook is not exactly a book of ghost stories, though its subtitle disagrees. It behaves more like a short story collection than any other literary form, but reading it feels akin to walking through an art exhibit, each piece linked in ways that are ineffable but clear. And many of Guestbook's sections are art. Shapton includes many of her own watercolors and uses photographs as both art and documentation...

"Eqalussuaq" is Shapton at her finest, as is Guestbook as a whole. Without fail, it's unexpected, subtle and moving. Shapton excels at evoking emotion through absence, which is, perhaps, a skill borrowed from more traditional ghost stories. Guestbook never sets out to frighten, though. Some of Shapton's ghosts might be malevolent — the haunted tennis player in "Billy Byron," for example, might have been better off without his supernatural coach — but there are no jump scares here.  

Source: NPR