Sari's Significant Object


I love that Rob Walker. Not only is he the brilliant author of the New York Times Magazine‘s "Consumed" column and the former "Moneybox" columnist for Slate. Not only did he write the critically acclaimed Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are (Random House, 2008). Not only did he pen the wonderful collection of essays about the Big Easy called Letters from New Orleans. Not only did he create the zine Where Were You, his personal reminiscences about celebrity deaths. Not only was he my collaborator on Titans of Finance. But now he — and partner Joshua Glenn (does he only work with guys named "Josh"?) have come up with a new scheme, one which combines Rob’s interests in art, social practices, and money — The Significant Object project. And my wonderful wife Sari is a participant.

Here’s how it works (from the S.O. website):

THE IDEA: A talented, creative writer invents a story about an object. Invested with new significance by this fiction, the object should — according to our hypothesis — acquire not merely subjective but objective value.


  1. The project’s curators purchase objects — for no more than a few dollars — from thrift stores and garage sales.
  2. A participating writer is paired with an object. He or she then writes a fictional story, in any style or voice, about the object. Voila! An unremarkable, castoff thingamajig has suddenly become a “significant” object!
  3. Each significant object is listed for sale. Care is taken to avoid the impression that the story is a true one; the intent of the project is not to hoax eBay customers.
  4. The winning bidder is mailed the significant object, along with a printout of the object’s fictional story. Net proceeds from the sale are given to the respective author.
Don’t you love it? I do; I’ve always thought Rob has an amazing talent for using irony to address serious and important issues, and this is a perfect example. Anyway, the S.O. project has already employed the talents of such writers as Nicholson Baker, Kurt Anderson, Colson Whitehead, Luc Sante, Doug Dorst, Ann Nocenti, and now… Sari Wilson. Check out her contribution, all about a sweeeeet penguin creamer, right here. And start bidding — the auction ends September 10!!!

3 thoughts on “Sari's Significant Object

  1. SO
    That’s a really nice idea! A while back I assigned my students (college level) a one page comic strip centering on an object found in their room. I was basing it on Ben Katchor’s book “Cheap Novelties” (a classic).

  2. Hello,
    I added you a while ago when your journal was featured.
    This is such an incredible idea! I am already very into the practice of creating significant objects. I have thought about writing stories about them, but so far their importance is solely my own invention, solely for me.
    I read Sari’s story, and it is absolutely beautiful. I want to make a bid, but I already have too many beautiful zero-practical-utility things that I can’t take with me on a move I am about to make, and honestly – the story is powerful not only because of the writing but because it mirrors a real and painful personal experience (my last relationship) and I think it would sadden me to have around. And I drink my coffee black…

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