Monday, April 14, 2008

A Book Based on Grocery Lists?

Hillary Carlip's a la Cart: The Secret Lives of Grocery Shoppers, according to Chicago Tribune reporter Patrick T. Reardon (April 8, 2008), is a "gloriously idiosyncratic project that taps into the deeply human pastime of daydreaming about the lives of others."

Carlip gathered 26 grocery lists (for example, "Coors, Oreos" written on the back of a matchbook cover), imagined what each writer was like, and then dressed up in that role for a photograph at a supermarket. She later wrote back stories about the shoppers and their shopping trips.

The idea apparently came from Hillary Carlip's teenage discovery of a discarded list in a supermarket cart. Since then, she's collected some 2,000 to 3,000 lists.

This idea fascinates me, at least the writing part. Carlip is also an actor and performance artist, which led to the photos and assumed personas. I have not read this book, but reading about it reinforced my beliefs that we reveal a lot about ourselves through our writing, and that almost anything can be a worthy topic.

What would my list reveal about me? That I'm no cook, am concerned about my weight, live alone, and am not poor, since I waste a lot of money on prepared foods: cooked, sliced chicken breast; packaged salad greens; lo-cal frozen dinners; sugar-free Jello.

I like idiosyncratic writing projects (see my coming rictameter collection). However, perhaps those of you especially concerned about your privacy need to shred your grocery lists along with your credit card statements.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

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