An Extraordinary Theory of Objects: A Memoir of an Outsider in Paris
It’s impossible for me to be objective about Stephanie LaCava’s book An Extraordinary Theory of Objects: A Memoir of an Outsider in Paris; after attending her reading at Shakespeare and Company I couldn’t wait to lay my hands on this beautiful little book.
The book is a series of painfully honest essays exploring the inner life of a teenage girl in the early nineties in and around Paris. On the surface Stephanie was a lucky girl with a very successful family living an interesting life and attending a glamourous international school. On the inside it’s a painfully honest description of the agony of teenage and isolation. In the nineties, grunge and misery were in vogue but for Stephanie it was frighteningly real. She was so lonely that she had to reach out in every direction to survive, finding connection with objects, writers characters of the past; anything to fill the aching teenage void.
As an adult she can only see these experiences as fragments, memories, moments and vignettes. Stephanie has rediscovered her former self in the objects that she collected and held so dearly at this time. She sweetly explains that as a teen she was forever classifying people, numbers, systems, gods and goddesses; these are just the ones she admits. She goes through this process again by analysing, categorizing and trying to link and connect her objects, to find a secret connection and rediscover herself.
The book is beautifully illustrated by Matthew Nelson and the twin themes explored – memory and objects – run simultaneously. Sometimes sharing a page, the footnotes provide perfect anecdotal sized bites of curious and eclectic information.
Adult Stephanie lives in Paris and New York and works as a writer and stylist on some of the most prestigious magazines in the world. I found her so intriguing I could not resist the opportunity to ask her a few questions.
Here and Elsewhere: Do you have a new object that is captivating your imagination at the moment?
Stephanie LaCava: It’s a cream cashmere knit sweater that reminds me of a personal favorite scene in a movie.
HE: You find the opal necklace you describe in An Extraordinary Theory of Objects on one of your first walks – do you still find things in the street? How does that make you feel?
SLC: Often, or I like to believe I might. That’s part of what keeps me going, what I might find in a less literal sense.
HE: Do you ever secretly eat a burger?
SLC: Don’t think I’ve ever had one.
HE: In your book you cannot stop yourself from describing outfits, and you work in fashion. What is more important: appearance, meaning, or touch?
SLC: Meaning and human touch.
HE: Which is your favourite shopping street in Paris?
SLC: I like around the Quai Malaquais where the Dries store and all those little shops are.
HE: Are you loyal or ever-changing?
SLC: Fiercely loyal, maybe to a fault.
HE: You refer to so many characters from history in you book, which is your current all-time fave?
SLC: Too hard, ever-changing…
HE: Were you an A-student?
SLC: I was a nerd, fully.
HE: Do you speed or drive within the speed restriction (I can guess the answer to this one).
SLC: I am the worst driver ever.
HE: Everything you touch is so right now. Pretty please, Stephanie, we want to know what comes after this? Can we have 3 things that you think will be coming onto the horizon in 2013?
SLC: My next book, but in 2015, I think. More love and calm. Less objects.
HE: Do you think that there is a universal coda of Romanticism and you were just a tiny fragile person reaching out for your real tribe through these objects and behaviour? A tribe that transcends time and place?
SLC: You said it so well. My answer: Yes.
HE: Thank you, Stephanie, for sharing those thoughts with us!
Sarah Hyde lives in Paris and is our European Editor.