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The Object Parade (Counterpoint)
This new collection of interconnected essays marches to a provocative premise: what if one way to understand your life was to examine the objects within it? Which objects would you choose? What memories do they hold? And lined up in a row, what stories do they have to tell?
For tonight's reading, Dinah Lenney will be joined by Los Angeles Times book critic (and author himself) David Ulin.
In recalling her experience, Dinah Lenney's essays each begin with one thing -- real or imaginary, lost or found, rare or ordinary, animal, vegetable, mineral, edible. Each object comes with a memory or a story, and so sparks an opportunity for rue or reflection or confession or revelation, having to do with her coming of age as a daughter, mother, actor, and writer: the piano that holds secrets to family history and inheritance; the gifted watches that tell so much more than time; the little black dress that carries all of youth's love and longing; the purple scarf that stands in for her journey from New York to Los Angeles, across stage and screen, to pursue her acting dream.
Read together or apart, the essays project the bountiful mosaic of life and love, of moving to Los Angeles and raising a family; of coming to terms with place, relationship, failures, and success; of dealing with up-ended notions about home and family and career and aging, too. Taken together, they add up to a pastiche of an artful and quirky life, lovingly remembered, compellingly told, wrapped up in the ties that bind the passage of time.
Praise for The Object Parade
“Spoon, piano, flight jacket, Ferris wheel—The Object Parade courts tactile memory. Driven by Dinah Lenney's distinctive, insouciant voice, at once engagingly authoritative and tenaciously self-questioning, the heft of a guitar, smell of chicken simmering, or ticking metronome are brought to life again, then re-examined under the magnifying glass of time. The story of family and fate (with its rich panoply of relationship and revelation) unfolds here as "one thing" does inevitably "lead to another" in the hands of an author who gives us genuine insight at its subtle, insistent best.”—Judith Kitchen, author of Half in Shade and The Circus Train
"From politics to the piano to the lament of a mourning dove, Dinah Lenney looks life in the eye and never finds it wanting. Like Proust's madeleines, her "objects" scent the terrain of this book with memories from the evanescent to the profound. The world itself, examined with joy, shines out through each small detail. You will love this book, one object at a time, right down to its very end."—Linda Gray Sexton, author of Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother, Anne Sexton and Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide.
“The Object Parade is a rich, poignant homage to, quite literally, the stuff of life. Lenney is a gifted essayist, but her ear for the riddles and rhythms of language reveals the sensibilities of a poet—even a musician. She doesn't just write to us. She sings to us. You won't just read this collection, you will hear it.”—Meghan Daum
"How better to track the stages, shape, and meaning of a life than by way of the significant objects in it? But Dinah Lenney is a good deal more than clever. Every object she embraces in this beautifully-wrought book -- the piano, the Christmas tree, the mole, the green earrings -- discloses the compressed and hidden power of things, the nouns with which we write our lives. Piece by piece, the author reveals herself as a first rate observer in possession of a kind and generous mind -- the most treasurable object in her rich parade.” —Roger Rosenblatt
Dinah Lenney is the author of Bigger than Life, published in the American Lives Series at the University of Nebraska Press, and excerpted for the “Lives” column in The New York Times Sunday Magazine. She serves as core faculty for the Bennington Writing Seminars and for the Rainier Writing Workshop, and in the writing program at the University of Southern California. She has played a wide range of roles in theater and television, on shows such as ER, Murphy Brown, Law and Order, Monk, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and Sons of Anarchy. She lives in Los Angeles.