Found: The Best Lost, Tossed, and Forgotten Items from Around the World by Davy Rothbart (Simon & Schuster), 252 pages, $16.80 paper. Rating: NNNN
Found: The Best Lost, Tossed, and Forgotten Items from Around the World is a work both wildly compelling and completely appalling. Put together by the founder of the magazine of the same name, Davy Rothbart, a writer and contributor to National Public Radio's This American Life, Found is a collection of photos, scraps and notes, including love letters, hate letters, to-do lists and homework assignments - any kind of note really. They were sent to Rothbart by contributors who found them on streets or buses, in restaurants, parking lots, waiting rooms or prison yards - in short, anywhere on the planet.
Finders are also asked to name their finds, just as you might name a work of art, which gives each scrap of paper a little extra personality.
My personal favourites include Find God, Start Drinking, a to-do list found by Fil of Lincoln, Nebraska, and Make Up Your Mind, found by Claire Reichstein of San Francisco, which reads, "Make up your mind, Mr. Dickens. 'Twas either the best of times or the worst of times."
There are grossly disturbing found objects, too, like letters to lovers or from children to parents. Reading Found, I feel as though I am peeking, uninvited, from a dark alleyway through a back window into people's lives. It feels kinda dirty, and not in a good way.
Rothbart says he has never been contacted by someone who was unhappy about having their found notes published.
"But of course I've asked myself the same question. The more compromising an item is, the harder I work to mask identifying information (names are always changed)."
Another neat thing about Found is that both the more mundane and the more intimate pieces feel like things we could have written ourselves. We think we're such individuals, but deep down we're all alike.
You might feel a tad guilty reading Found, but you'll also laugh your ass off and maybe get a little something in your eye.
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