Essays On A Life, Told Through The Objects In It

In The Object Parade, Dinah Lenney uses possessions as a lens through which to examine her life.

Essays On A Life, Told Through The Objects In It

It’s impossible to go through life without falling in love with an inanimate object or two. In the essays in Dinah Lenney’s new memoir The Object Parade, the writer spins narratives through the symbolism of the everyday objects that have nestled their way into her life–a watch, a Steinway baby grand, a spoon stolen from a hotel overlooking the Pacific, a dead dog’s collar. Lenney uses these objects to trace a personal history that nods respectfully to the objects that have played an important role in her life.


Lenney writes in the book’s prologue:

Certain objects, not always the ones we’d expect to keep or remember or dream about, insinuate themselves–take on a lustre in which we are reflected: by which special effect we can somehow see, if not where we’re going, where we were, and even why we are where we are. Things, all kinds–ordinary, extraordinary–tether us to place and people and the past, to feeling and thought, to each other and ourselves, to some admittedly elusive understanding of the passage of time. Things–alone and in relation to other things–tell the stories of our lives, which, once told, sometimes (not always) release their hold–not only the stories but the things themselves–allowing us, enabling us, in fact, to move on.

The essays are a poignant reminder of the way certain objects around us shape our lives and become a touchstone for our personal memories. “We attach meaning to things, and things to meaning: endow them one way or another as if to prove to ourselves that we are who we are; this life really happened; we really have traveled this far in time and space,” she writes.

Stop and look around at your possessions: It’s a useful way to consider what you care about and why.

These objects are by nature designed, whether it’s a homemade cardboard costume modeled after a beloved Walkie Talkie or an artisan-fashioned chandelier that resembles “a black tarantula, an upside down octopus, a prehistoric bug.” In this way, design shapes our nostalgia, influencing what we remember and how.

Get the book here.

[H/T: The Nervous Breakdown]

About the author

Shaunacy Ferro is a Brooklyn-based writer covering architecture, urban design and the sciences. She's on a lifelong quest for the perfect donut.