Reading [Guestbook] feels akin to walking through an art exhibit, each piece linked in ways that are ineffable but clear. . . Guestbook blurs the lines between haunting and reality. . . Certainly, Shapton suffuses both art and text with longing. . . That yearning, like a ghost, lingers long after the stories are done.” —NPR
“The exquisite minimalism that defines Shapton’s style hews much closer to verse than prose. Shapton’s thoughtful layout of text and her use of images sets a deliberate, poetic pace. She invites her readers to slow down, to linger, to let the language percolate . . . Through the immersive, wholly original reading experience of Guestbook, Shapton has bested herself yet again, masterfully elevating the ghost story form to new heights.” -LA Review of Books
“Strange in the way that being haunted must inevitably be strange . . . Guestbook is best appreciated as a portable art installation. The book is enigmatic at every turn, but gorgeously realized. It pushes the boundaries of both ‘ghost’ and ‘story,’ and the discomfort that it creates crawls beyond the covers of the book and into the mind, haunting long after the last page.” –New York Journal of Books
“A mesmerizing pastiche of found photos, original art, and dinner party anecdotes that answer the question ‘What haunts us?’ with evidence so chilling, you’ll keep flipping through the fear.” –Martha Stewart Living
“Shapton combines found and original visuals with unsettling, evocative stories to capture the sensation of what it feels like to try to remember a dream upon waking.” –Harper’s Bazaar
“Persistently uncanny . . . Shapton’s prose will leave you craving more... tactile, mysterious and seductive.” – The Guardian
“The writing and images are equal parts funny, spooky, and devastating, and by the time I was done reading I felt haunted myself.” –The Rumpus
“Part evidence log, part crime scrapbook, part secret diary, part lost family photo album, Leanne Shapton’s Guestbook is a mesmerizing collection of texts and images that builds more like a symphony than a novel. Each distinct chapter . . . elevates the traditional ghost story into an art form.” –Interview Magazine
“Trained as an art director, each of Shapton’s books are carefully constructed objects . . . Shapton’s stories create wells of meaning from the shadows cast by items left behind; these hauntings, full of memories and longings, are visceral . . . Guestbook is a melancholy ode to people lost and a celebration of what they leave behind.” –Brooklyn Rail
“Full of unconventional storytelling. . . Guestbook also has wonderful moments of humor that reminds us that just because we are being haunted, doesn’t mean we can’t laugh.” –FLAUNT Magazine
“Entirely original . . . Shapton ekes ghostly mystery out of few words . . . Like the spiritual world that inspired it, Guestbook draws eerie, tantalizing power from moments of confusion. It throws into question the meanings of what we read and what we think we see.” –Hyperallergic
“Perfectly uncanny . . . unsettling us in sometimes terrifying and sometimes exhilarating ways. Shapton’s words are interwoven with images of art and artifacts, adding to the surreal aura of each of the stories, reminding us of the always pulsing energy that imbues nearly everything around us, always, whether we feel it right away or not.” –NYLON
“What makes this new collection so remarkable is what occurs off the page, in the blank places between its sparse text and its abundant images . . . These stories are irreducible and insoluble, and that’s their glory.” –TOR.com
“The multitalented Leanne Shapton presents us with another unclassifiable treasure! Guestbook is a collection of stories . . . narrated in Shapton’s inimitably offbeat style.” –Largehearted Boy
“This clever and evocative volume...collects ghost stories ranging from the eerie to the tender . . . Shapton inventively explores the space between presence and absence, craftily blending images and text to articulate what cannot be explained, only sensed, making for a uniquely haunting and uncanny work.” –Publishers Weekly
“A surreal look at everyday happenings, which is sure to leave you feeling uneasy in a good way.” –Domino Magazine
“Diffuse and eerie . . . We may not always get to see the lives of others, Shapton seems to say, but still they were here. A strange and haunting art project.” –Kirkus Reviews
“’Ghost’ is a good word for all the nameless longing that doesn’t get resolved in this lifetime. Shapton has created a mystical territory — a performance, an exhibition, a guestbook — in which I felt the ghost within myself; the thing that will outlive me. A fearless and exquisite book."
– Miranda July, filmmaker, artist, and bestselling author of No One Belongs Here More Than You and The First Bad Man
“Guestbook reveals Shapton as a ventriloquist, a diviner, a medium, a force, a witness, a goof, and above all, a gift. One of the smartest, most moving, most unexpected books I have read in a very long time.” – Rivka Galchen, author of Atmospheric Disturbances and Little Labors
“Leanne Shapton has a way of making books entirely new, surreal, and uncanny, always experimenting with the ways image and text can be mixed to tell new stories, in new ways. Guestbook is a delicious haunting and leaves one with a chill of recognition for how we live as ghosts in this distant, distracted, and image-obsessed time.” – Sheila Heti, Motherhood and How Should a Person Be?
This multimedia collection of ghost stories uses found photographs, architectural plans, social media comments, and illustrations to create artifacts of grief and loss.
In her essay about the persistence of ghost stories in American literature, critic Parul Sehgal suggests the form survives because it allows writers to offer "social critiques camouflaged with cobwebs." Yet, in her latest collection, Shapton (Swimming Studies, 2012, etc.) uses ephemera not to catalog our social ills but to collect evidence of well-heeled lives at risk of being forgotten or brushed aside. The effect is diffuse and eerie, more often mood than assertion or plot. In one story, a professional tennis player listens to the advice of his invisible friend, Walter, in order to win matches. Eventually he's driven mad by the ghost's demands. In another piece, Shapton catalogs social media comments for an unseen photograph. The comments are stripped of most punctuation and almost all context; the chorus of approval dances around a body the reader will never see. Occasionally a first-person narrator encounters others at cocktail parties, where she learns of still more ghosts haunting her acquaintances. Shapton's vignettes are at their strongest when she imagines the hidden lives of inanimate objects, as in "Sirena de Gali," which pairs vintage clothing descriptions with brief scenes from the lives of their former owners. There's often a playfulness to her texts, too, as when she juxtaposes historical photographs of the iceberg that downed the Titanic with scribbled notes from a restaurant manager trying to appease her rich but ill-mannered clientele. When Shapton doesn't gravitate toward gothic photos of dark houses and empty beds, she is invested in trying to capture the feeling of bodies that have just left a room, whether living or dead, real or imagined. "Living without what the photo does not give back," reads one cryptic caption. "What you don't see. What you don't get to see." We may not always get to see the lives of others, Shapton seems to say, but still they were here.
A strange and haunting art project.
Author/artist Shapton, whose Swimming Studies won the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography, here remakes the ghost story, as ghosts visit their old beds, a tennis prodigy blames his frequent collapses on troublesome spirits, and a woman upset after visiting Alcatraz is told that a prisoner's spirit remains with her, captivated by her empathy. Not just written but also designed and illustrated by Shapton, who has a devoted following.