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An Extraordinary Theory of Objects: A Memoir of an Outsider in Paris [Deckle Edge] [Hardcover]

Stephanie LaCava

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Book Description

15 Dec 2012

It's Girl Interrupted meets Miranda July—with a touch of Joan Didion—in this captivating collection of original essays revolving around a young American girl's coming of age in Paris. As an adolescent in a foreign country, Stephanie LaCava found an unconventional way to deal with her social awkwardness and feelings of uncertainty about the future by taking solace from the strange and beautiful objects she came across in her daily life. Filled with beautiful illustrations and providing a retrospective of nineties fashion and culture, An Extraordinary Theory of Objects: A Memoir of an Outsider in Paris is sure to be a collector's item for Francophiles or anyone who has ever found security in the strangest of places.

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“This captivating, wonderfully strange little book is like no other I’ve ever read. Stephanie LaCava has created something original and true, at once emotionally resonant and intellectually challenging. A sheer delight.” (Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion and Slow Motion)

“What cleverly fills the honeycomb of LaCava’s own story is a compassionate, evocative biography of seemingly aberrant things and a collection of historical anecdotes that most readers would never otherwise learn, let alone find gathered all together in one small (but not diminishing), deliberate, and careful book.” (Booklist)

“A series of wistfully illustrated essays. . . . A strange and lovely journey.” (Flavorwire)

“Its brilliance lies in the depth in plumbs. . . . Stephanie LaCava, along with the lovely illustrations throughout the book, shows us just how extraordinary these odd things are.” (Matchbook Magazine)

“Truly a lovely book in every sense.” (Minnesota Public Radio's "The Daily Circuit Blog")

“With help from Matthew Nelson’s elegant drawings, the worldly LaCava impresses by unearthing hidden treasures from a painful youth.” (Interview Magazine)

From the Back Cover

A haunting and moving collection of original narratives that reveals an expatriate's coming-of-age in Paris and the magic she finds in ordinary objects

An awkward, curious girl growing up in a foreign country, Stephanie LaCava finds solace and security in strange yet beautiful objects.

When her father's mysterious job transports her and her family to the quaint Parisian suburb of Le Vésinet, everything changes for the young American. Stephanie sets out to explore her new surroundings and to make friends at her unconventional international school, but her curiosity soon gives way to feelings of anxiety and a deep depression.

In her darkest moments, Stephanie learns to filter the world through her peculiar lens, discovering the uncommon, uncelebrated beauty in what she finds. Encouraged by her father through trips to museums and scavenger hunts at antique shows, she traces an interconnected web of narratives of long-ago outsiders, and of objects historical and natural, that ultimately help her survive.

A series of illustrated essays that unfolds in cinematic fashion, An Extraordinary Theory of Objects offers a universal lesson—to harness the power of creativity to cope with loneliness, sadness, and disappointment to find wonder in the uncertainty of the future.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but not fluid 25 Dec 2012
By EML - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I had very high hopes for this book after I read the reviews. It seemed unique. The details were extremely interesting and I liked several quotes.
It wasn't the writing that turned me off, but the structure of the book. The time lapses were disheartening. As soon as I became invested, LaCava changed the scene. Upon rereading the description and it is a COLLECTION OF ESSAYS. That makes a lot more sense.
The description also says "Stephanie LaCava finds solace and security in strange yet beautiful objects", but I don't necessarily see that being shown in throughout the text. Aside from a couple of objects in the beginning, there wasn't any background or emotion expressed with the objects. The narration seemed monotone and distant, which helped portray the numbness of depression, but I ended up not feeling for the author.
If you are looking for a collection of clean-cut, descriptive, well-written essays of random memories from a woman who struggled with depression in Paris, you have it. Do not expect a novel about overcoming a problem, which was my mistake.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Design, Mediocre Writing 8 May 2013
By Lou - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was so excited when I received this book. As an object, it's beautiful. Then I started to read it. She's just not a great writer, unfortunately. A mediocre talent at best, and her voice is non-existent. A memoir (or any first-person narrative) needs to have a strong, authentic, compelling voice, and she simply has not discovered hers yet. I was very disappointed.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars objects and curiosities 11 Dec 2012
By Carrie Dunham-LaGree - Published on Amazon.com
The basics: An Extraordinary Theory of Objects: A Memoir of an Outsider in Paris is more about the objects than it is in Paris. In truth, Stephanie LaCava considers herself an outsider whether or not she's in Paris and traces her emotional history through objects.

My thoughts: An Extraordinary Theory of Objects is a unique memoir. It's told in vignettes of memories and objects. Drawings are paired with lengthy footnotes in the midst of the text. Initially, it was somewhat difficult to follow these dual narratives, and shifting my focus to the footnotes detracted from LaCava's fluid prose. Truthfully, I enjoyed LaCava's writing more than the footnotes. They drawings of the objects added a rich detail, but the footnotes, while often filled with fascinating trivia, didn't have the depth of LaCava's emotional memories. About half-way through this slim volume, I took a different approach. I read each vignette in its entirety, then I went back and read each footnote in it. This strategy worked beautifully, and the objects themselves were more intriguing when taken together than when interspersed in the narrative.

The book is itself an object of curiosity. It's rare I recommend a print book over an e-text, but with An Extraordinary Theory of Objects, I would. It's a book to keep in view and observe your guests flipping through trying to figure out just what exactly it is.

The verdict: An Extraordinary Theory of Objects is at its most extraordinary when LaCava shares her personal journey rather than her thoroughly researched beloved objects. Her journey and introspection were haunting and honest. Many of the vignettes would work well as a standalone, but as a whole, this book is as beguiling as Stephanie LaCava herself.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't bother 7 Dec 2013
By Poodilicious - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
To say this is a book is far too generous. It was a series of disjointed vigneettes, supposedly predicated on two themes; that she was odd and had a fascination for objects, neither of which were developed. Instead her so-called personality disorders felt like boastful self-aggrandizement, when in fact it appeared to be nothing more than thinly veiled masquerade for ordinary teenage angst.
While the author has obvious talent, by the end of the book I was only persuaded of one thing; that it was published simply because of her industry contacts and for its merits.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully Strange 12 Dec 2012
By Lindsey - Published on Amazon.com
What a wonderfully strange memoir! I like unique and different and a little weird so if you feel the same, you will love this book! Lacava is so refreshingly open about what she herself calls her strangeness. Most people don't like to admit anything that's different about them that the world may condemn while Lacava embraces her uniqueness. At the end of her introduction she states "Here is my story, but told in a strange way. Consider the source." I knew then this was going to be an amazing read.

As a little girl Stephanie knew that she was different but unlike most little girls, she did not care! She had a father with a mysterious job that was rarely around and a mother that loved her even if she didn't always understand her. Stephanie felt alone and isolated throughout her childhood. I think everyone feels this way at times but Stephanie coped by attaching herself to objects and they became her friends and constant companions.

While some may see her behavior as perilous, I think that allowing yourself to embrace what you feel is healthy and brave, even if it is sadness. She found happiness in the little things and had a father that encouraged her love of objects because he understood what they meant to her. What a rare and precious gift to be supported in something others consider weird. There is no greater gift than unconditional love and acceptance.

I think that the footnotes in this book fill about half of the book! There is a lot of history we learn about Paris and interesting facts about everything she writes about. I've never seen a book formatted like this. I don't know if I liked it or not but definitely found it interesting. Setting yourself apart from the millions of books out there can never be a bad thing!

I rarely say anything about the physical book itself but this one has those pages that are thick and feel like you are reading an old journal. She has interesting drawings throughout of what she is currently writing about that ad another rare element to her book.

If you are tired of reading the same types of books, pick this one up and I guarantee you never read anything like it. Lacava is strong and brave and I respect anyone who lays it all out on the table. Men and women alike will be intrigued by Stephanie's story. It would make a great Christmas gift for the reader's on your list!
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