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.
- The project’s curators purchase objects — for no more than a few dollars — from thrift stores and garage sales.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!!!
For years I had this recurring dream where I would be walking down the street and come across a huge stash of comics sitting in boxes on the sidewalk. In my dream, I never got to open the boxes and see what was inside, but I envisioned them filled with great old books to complete my collection or at least sell for a tidy sum.
So imagine my disbelief when Victor, my building superintendent, pulled me aside the other day. He took me into his storage space in the basement and showed me box after box overflowing with comics! Turns out they had been left to him by a couple of vacating tenants over the years, and he had just gotten the bright idea of trying to sell them. Even though I’ve lived in the building for over seven years, he never knew I was a cartoonist until fairly recently, so when he found out, he figured I was the guy to show them to. Now I love Victor; he’s a great super and he always goes out of his way to help out Sari and I. So I agreed to go through the boxes and see what was what.
It took me a week or so of hour-long visits, but eventually I went through the thousands of books, culling what I thought had some re-sale value. (I’m sort of touch with that market from selling books from my collection over the years.) Sadly, the vast majority of the comics were crappy ’90s Marvel and Image books, published during the speculator rage when supply way outpaced demand. But I did find a mother lode of vintage 1970s Marvels, going back to the era of 25-cent books. Most of the comics were in awful condition, having been read multiple times and never bagged or boarded. Even so, there were a couple of gems, including the first appearance of The Punisher in Amazing Spider-Man #129, the first appearance of Gambit in X-Men #266, and a nearly complete run of Claremont/Byrne/Austin X-Men.
I took the books with “potential” up to my apartment, and spent some hours here or there over the last few weeks putting them up on eBay. I also invested in some comics boxes and bags and boards. When all was said and done, I netted Victor over $300 (the Punisher Spider-Man alone sold for over $100!). Victor was thrilled when I brought him the cash the other day, and I’ve been getting to enjoy reading old comics, and filling some gaps in my old collection (mostly Byrne and George Pérez books). And I still have a bunch of books left to sell, when I get around to it. Who says dreams don’t come true?