leanne shapton

I sometimes try to come around to my first real passion, books. I have been feeling disconnected from books for a while, even during the time that I spent working for a rare book dealer (and even as I work inside a library that houses over 4 million books).

I have been seeing references to Leanne Shapton's work quite a bit recently (her article "In the Night Kitchen" has made the rounds, as well as her book cover designs), and this makes me happy. She is a consummate book person, a co-founder of J&L Books, as well as an artist. Her biography is filled with dream jobs.

The other night I was out for drinks with Carly and Erica, and we indulged in some terrific girl talk. I was reminded of Shapton's book, Was She Pretty?, which explores the "conflicting feelings aroused in women by their boyfriends' ex-lovers. It's narrated (and drawn) by a sharp but weary onlooker who is very intimate with all the principles, who seem to form a loose circle of friends." I pulled out my (signed, thank you David Mirvish Books on Art -- miss you) copy yesterday, and found it far more funny than I have in the past. I actually laughed out loud a few times. It's sincere, and maybe even a little uncomfortable.

("Alasdair's ex-girlfriend was his first cousin Annabel. Their family was very casual about it all. They were a close-knit clan of eccentric and photogenic aristocrats who often modeled for luxury ad campaigns.")

A few years ago Geoff and I went on a "date" to the reference library so that I could take a look at her first book, called Toronto. I keep meaning to buy it. I love the tender description: "In 2002, Leanne Shapton gave up her Toronto apartment, left her job, and moved to London where she lived in a small bedsit. The drawings in this book grew out of the acute homesickness she felt. Most of them were done from photographs taken of her close friends and surroundings over the previous five years, and of the new friends she was making in London. The book is a quiet eulogy about leaving friends, and home, and what we love about the photographs we keep with us."

I really like her

REPLIES: my tronnow

Rachel: Yeah! They're super amazing people and they've created a great bar. It's pretty funny to order drinks from someone who has been in a Marc Jacobs campaign...?

Carmen: Ha! It made me laugh to write it out.

K.Line: Oh wow! I didn't even realize Bairrada had a patio! I've only ever had take out. And yeah, our neighbourhood isn't too beautiful, but we can't all live in Paris! I'm not sure I would be any happier if I did! We have a chocolate factory! Rejoice.

erica-knits: Yeah! It's fun to share. I've spent a lot of time researching, you know!

Miss Crowland: Thanks! I was supposed to go to Libretto on my birthday, but it didn't work out and we wound up at the Lakeview, of course. I've heard they're open for lunch now but I have yet to try. Oh, and I know! I'm at the Duff pretty much two or three times a week. Did you know that the Winners was once a Consumer's Distributing?

amelish: You're welcome!

Jane Flanagan: Thanks, Jane! Oh, I know... it's still in transition, too. I feel like it keeps getting better. It will never be beautiful, but that's okay.

erin / atlantictreefox: Yay! Thanks for the idea! I hope you get to visit some of these spots soon.

neonfoxtongue: Thanks! I may have to do another post for Parkdale / the Junction / Leslieville!

jen kim: Oh! Great! I hope you'll like it here.

Hello Lindello: Thanks! Yeah, Robber doesn't really look its best on Google Street View (unflattering picture!), but it is a really lovely shop.

Idle Wife: I don't even think I noticed it until a few years ago, to be honest. It's just been such an innate part of speaking, you know? So funny.

Beware! the Leopard: I have tried it, and I love it! I was just there the other day. Yum.

Sarah: Hello! That's pretty funny.

charismagic: Thank you! Not all of Toronto looks like this -- there are parts that are full of skyscrapers, and parts by water, and older parts... this is just my neighbourhood and thereabouts.

regina: It totally is. Geoff has a friend who was captured by the Google car while carrying her laundry!

tara-lynn: I wish that too!

Natasha: Ha! Well, the Google cameras aren't so good at picking out best angles. Every city looks pretty terrible on Google Street View. Toronto even more so, I suppose!

stitchface: Oh that's great to hear! You're welcome.

DEADWEIGHT: I have! It's often closed by the time I walk past it, but it's pretty close to where I live.

Kempt: I can't wait to hear all about it!

whistlepeaknits: I am resigned to the fact that I will rent for the rest of my life. Ha! I'm glad you like it! It's weird how everyone else seems to hate it, because it seems like most people I know came here from elsewhere.

nice-etc.com / caitlin: Do it! You can come meet Oreo.

millie: I like Communist's Daughter okay, but I have only been able to find a table there maybe twice in five or six years! I'm sorry to hear that, Millie.

CN and mel: Aw, I'm sorry! I hope you're happy where you are now! It's funny how that can happen -- I mean, if you see above, the book by Leanne Shapton was about missing Toronto from London, and I've known people who moved to New York (New York! Everyone's dream city!) and have missed it. When it's home, it's home, I guess.

REPLIES: fogged film

wallflower: Hmm, maybe I only exposed part of it. Some of the pictures were untouched by the weird light!

Hello Lindello: Yeah, that one is crazy! You couldn't do that on purpose, I don't think!

Laura: Thanks! It's a little more work but I do enjoy it. It makes me feel a little more connected to people, which is nice.

May: Thank you!

hibou: That's great! And as I said above, it's a little extra work, but I like it. I hope others like it, too!

Parapluie: Thank you!

Chaucee: Aw, it's okay, I really love it too and nothing anyone could say would make me not like it!

bananenblatt: That sounds amazing!

Caroro: I love the blue stripes too. I was sad when I first got the pictures back, but now I really like them!

Amy Lou: Thank you!

xin-xin: I loaded a new roll of film and I'm hoping to get some real pictures with it. I really like it! It's so sturdy.

SogniSorrisi: Thank you!

thenextarrow: I'm glad, thank you!


  1. Anonymous22.3.10

    That book looks absolutely delightful. I'll have to add it to my reading list.

    +sigh+ school isn't letting me read anymore either, it eats up all my time. :(

  2. This looks so lovely, I was totally struck by the cover also. I need to find it!

    It's interesting hearing you say that you've been feeling a little disconnected from books lately as I can totally relate. I can't quite put my finger on why this is, if it is being busy or because there is actually a lot of fantastic stuff to read online, I'm not sure. But I'm really trying to make the effort to reconnect! Perhaps starting with The Mandarins wasn't my best choice though, so huge!

  3. thanks for sharing this! it looks beautiful and really different. I have been feeling rather disconnected from books lately as well. i will be sure to check this out! v

  4. Oh, this post made my day! I, too, love Leanne Shapton - Toronto hasn't left my desk since the day I bought it a while back. I've always wished I could draw, but that book only underscores the desire. I've been meaning to pick up Was She Pretty - thanks for the reminder!

  5. wow, this looks so great! I was just discussing this topic with someone, how ex girlfriends release some type of strange rage and jealousy in girls that no one can quite explain. ha!

  6. oh yay! i have been wanting to read more graphic novels lately.
    i just read french milk not too long ago, and fell in love with it.
    i'm going to get this one!

  7. Reading books is a solitary thing, and requires long spells of silence and paying attention- something that is kind of the antithesis of reading on the Internet. Whenever I find myself impatiently skipping ahead in a book, I know it's my Internet habits pushing themselves to the fore. It's actually pretty difficult to stay "in the loop" book-wise, I find, and it's only because I work in a bookstore that I'm reading all the time now.

  8. this looks great, thanks for sharing. i also want her toronto book, i love the story behind it.

  9. Yay girl talk! That was so fun. Thanks for posting about this author - and what a beautiful cover!

  10. Mmmm, books! I'm going to try to get around to reading some Leanne Shapton! I wish I had the patience to be a writer. I'm reading St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russel and it's amazing. I love off the wall yet touching stories like that. Also, Blankets, by Craig Thompson, a graphic novel, is also very very good.

  11. the front cover looks really good. so simple, but sweet.

    this also makes me think of sonja ahlers, who writes and illustrates books with lots of little commentary bits about love and life and irony. i think you would really enjoy her work too.

  12. i'm so excited about this anabela! i just read the night kitchen article last week and it has been sitting in my mind. so glad to know she has more to offer. as for old books, i think you would like what i found!

  13. What a lovely idea for a book! The illustrations are so great. I think I may have to snatch this book up for myself.


  14. i really like her too. and the purple on the cover.

  15. looks like a really good book! thanks for sharing!

  16. I love her stuff, too, especially her book covers and little paintings. For a while I was buying Elle just to see her little travel doodles.

  17. I'll have to make my way down to the Drake to pick up her book Toronto. It's actually kind of funny, I have all the pages from Elle that she did on traveling torn out and in my notebooks, but I never knew it was her. "Was she pretty?" just sounds and looks like the most perfect book. Thanks again for girl talk!

  18. oh yes, i have this book and LOVE it! the illustrations are so fabulous and the lines are so funny. i've totally been jealous of boyfriends' exes in the past, which is so crazy when you think about it :)

  19. Oh I have that book! Some of those are quite funny, and some of them remind me of people I know of.

    I also love the inside of the cover. (And I took the dust jacket off. It was $3 and a bit busted.)

  20. i too am in love with LS. a couple of months ago, i read her latest novel and adored it. will have to buy the book you mention!

  21. I ordered this right after reading your post and it arrived today. I don't want to read it just yet - I'm saving it for the right time. Thanks for the rec.

  22. am logging on to get that - in multiple copies for all friends, too - this instant.