WAS SHE PRETTY? by Leanne Shapton (Drawn & Quarterly), 206 pages, $22.95 paper. Rating: NNN
We all have stories about our lovers' exes - or at least complicated feelings about them. Brainy Leanne Shapton tapped into those anxieties with her first book, 2006's Was She Pretty?, now out in paper.
Shapton, a magazine art director (she has worked for a number of publications, including the New York Times), is known for her quirky take on everything from being a world-class swimmer to how we hold on to the artifacts of our relationships. She uses visuals, usually drawings, to convey complex emotions that in the case of Was She Pretty? range from the mild anxieties to outright obsessions that she learned about from talking to scores of acquaintances.
Shapton revels in seemingly unimportant but telling details: one ex wore shorts all year round, another woman allowed a photo of her partner's former lover to fall between the piano and the wall. Whereas one of Shapton's subjects couldn't stand that her new boyfriend stocked tampons in his bathroom, someone else might have interpreted that fact as proof of his thoughtfulness.
However, of the 50-plus relationships referred to here, all of them are heterosexual, which, let's face it, is very weird. Shapton is an artist living in New York City, for god's sake, and it's not as if queer people don't have issues with their partners' exes.
Nevertheless, you'll look at these expertly crafted drawings (most often of the exes as Shapton imagines them) and the details in the text and smile with a sense of recognition
Shapton will be interviewed by Sheila Heti on Saturday (February 6) at Type Books on Queen West. See Readings.