LOST OBJECTS (37)

By: Lydia Millet
November 5, 2019

One in an ongoing series of nonfiction stories about lost objects. In 2017, Project:Object’s Josh Glenn and Rob Walker asked 25 writers to tell us about a significant object they’d lost (or thrown away, or destroyed), then assigned these stories to 25 illustrators. The first Lost Objects series was such a hit with readers, and so fun for us to publish, that we’ve decided it deserves a sequel.

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Illustration by Berta Valló for PROJECT:OBJECT.

It was in sixth grade that I discovered The Official Rocky Horror Picture Show Movie Novel. During recess a thin, lonely girl named Carrie was hunched in a corner of the playground reading it with rapt attention. An avid reader myself, I was curious and went over to her. I hadn’t heard of the movie. We were way too young to get in, of course.

I was fascinated. The book’s black cover bore the iconic red, dripping-blood letters. It had stills from the film slapped together in bulletin-board style, with dialogue and lyrics. Pictures of Janet in a bra and Frank N. Furter in a sparkly black corset and lush, black-lined lips. You could follow along as you listened to the soundtrack.

Before then it had mostly been Narnia for me. And other children’s classics. We didn’t have a TV, so I wasn’t much of a pop-culture kid.

I don’t know how I got my own copy. I only know I read it into rags. It was Frank N. Furter who compelled me most. Even now, when Tim Curry pops up in some small role in a newer movie, I can’t help wishing I could slap that thick, extravagant makeup right back on him. His face — an interesting face, admittedly — looks naked without it.

How I learned the music I don’t know either, because I didn’t have a Walkman till high school and the only record I owned was Supertramp: Breakfast in America. I have a terrible long-term memory, so I also don’t know when I first saw the movie — by then the book had been a beloved substitute for years. Yet to this day I know all the Rocky Horror songs by heart.

That dog-eared, faded paperback with unglued pages sticking out languished in my childhood bedroom when I went off to college. After graduation I picked it up and moved it with me. To Los Angeles, North Carolina, New York.

A year ago my fourteen-year-old daughter saw the teen-oriented remake. It was weird and campy, she said. Made no sense. Still, she liked the music. I hurried to fetch the book to show her, but it was nowhere on my shelves.

I must have become ashamed of it at some point, I realized. That was typically why I got rid of old possessions, in my late twenties. Putting away childish things. I cursed my twenty-something self.

I wanted it back. And that’s the thing about lost books — those that aren’t rare, at least. In the world of digital commerce, copies are easily acquired. A replacement wouldn’t be my book. But it would serve.

When the replacement arrived, my daughter glanced at it in passing, shrugged, and said she’d already seen the movie. The original, as well as the remake. The work of a few clicks, $3.99. She hadn’t bothered to ask for permission: it was a given.

Thanks, she said, but she didn’t need to look at the book.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: See sidebar.

ABOUT THE ARTIST: Berta Valló is an illustrator and graphic designer from Budapest, Hungary. Her work mainly explores the notion of identity formation and female sexuality in relation to consumerist culture.

ALSO SEE: Josh Glenn on the A-Frame | Tim Curry’s “I Do the Rock” | Adrienn Crew on Tim Curry.

LOST OBJECTS 2: INTRODUCTION | Geoff Manaugh on MOROCCAN TRINKET (ill. Mariana Pita) | Joe Yonan on MACRAMÉ ART (ill. Theo Ellsworth) | Laura Lippman on LABYRINTH GAME (ill. Laura Didyk) | Ben Katchor on LUCITE CARRYING CASE | Neil LaBute on PICKLED OCTOPUS (ill. Disa Wallander) | Miranda Mellis on SEQUINED SCARF (ill. Adam Goldberg) | Chris Piascik on GENERAL HUSTLER BMX | Jenny Kroik on MISSING TOY PIECES | Anita Kunz on FLOWER NECKLACE | Debbie Millman on GLASS POODLE | Heather Kapplow on CERAMIC ARTWORK (ill. Matt Wuerker) | Lydia Millet on ROCKY HORROR NOVEL (ill. Berta Valló) | Ben Greenman on WARHOL CAN (ill. Clara Selina Bach) | Leah Hennessey on BATMAN RING (ill. Dean Haspiel) | Kathryn Davis on PRAYER CARD (ill. Dina Noto) | Mikita Brottman on PINK ELEPHANTS (ill. Sarah Williamson) | Nathaniel Rich on AUTOGRAPHED BASEBALL (ill. Ellen Rose) | Charles Glaubitz on TRACK SHOES | Seth on ENTERPRISE MODEL | Becky Stern on SKELETON SWEATER (ill. Monica Garwood) | Mark Dery on GRANDFATHER PHOTO (ill. Kelli Anderson) | Paola Antonelli on VINYL SKIRT (ill. Guillermo Meraz) | Sara Ryan on FINGER PUPPET (ill. Steve Lieber) | Alex Gerasev on KARMA PARKA | Margaret Wertheim on ECCENTRIC BOOK (ill. Armando Veve).

FETISHES: INTRODUCTION | Josh Foer on DEATH MASK | Beth Lisick on MURDERED-OUT KFC BUCKET | Christina Couch on LEECH ACTION FIGURE | Kenneth Goldsmith on THEWLIS SOCK | Abby Rapoport on MAGNATILES | & 20 MORE.

FOSSILS: INTRODUCTION | Allegra Huston on SKATAWAY JACKET | Kevin Obsatz on HOMEMADE NUNCHUKS | Ian Bogost on DESKTOP TELEPHONE | Jeff Lewonczyk on CHA-CHA JACKET SCRAP | Kelly Horan on VOLVO KEY | & 20 MORE.

FLAIR: INTRODUCTION | Cliff Kuang on ROLEX DATEJUST | Ethan Zuckerman on LAPTOP STICKERS | Ann Shoket on LEATHER JACKET | Kembrew McLeod on KEMBREW MERCH | Paola Antonelli on MERMAID TEARS | & 20 MORE.

LOST OBJECTS (vol. 1): INTRODUCTION | Kate Bernheimer on MULLET WIG (ill. Amy Evans) | Dan Piepenbring on COLOGNE (ill. Josh Neufeld) | Doug Dorst on STRATOCASTER (ill. John Holbo) | Paul Lukas on VANILLA BEAN (ill. Alison Bamcat) | Mimi Lipson on DODGE DART (ill. Mister Reusch) | & 20 MORE.

ILLICIT OBJECTS: INTRODUCTION | Kio Stark on PEEPSHOW TOKEN | Sari Wilson on TOMBSTONE PARTS | Annalee Newitz on CAR-BOMB REMNANT | Tito Bottitta on MOONINITE DEVICE | Eric Bennett on DIRTY MAGAZINE | & 20 MORE.

TALISMANIC OBJECTS: INTRODUCTION | Veda Hille on CROCHET SHEEP | Gary Panter on DINOSAUR BONES | Jami Attenberg on SELENITE CRYSTAL | Annie Nocenti on MINIATURE DICE | Wayne Curtis on CLOCK WINDING KEY | & 20 MORE.

POLITICAL OBJECTS: INTRODUCTION | Luc Sante on CAMPAIGN PAMPHLETS | Lydia Millet on PVC POLAR BEAR | Ben Greenman on MATCHBOX CAR | Rob Baedeker on PRESIDENTS PLACEMAT | L.A. Kauffman on WHEATPASTE POSTER | & 20 MORE.

SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS at HILOBROW: PROJECT:OBJECT homepage | PROJECT:OBJECT newsletter | PROJECT:OBJECT objects (Threadless shop — all profits donated to the ACLU) | POLITICAL OBJECTS series (1Q2017) | TALISMANIC OBJECTS series (2Q2017) | ILLICIT OBJECTS series (3Q2017) | LOST OBJECTS vol. 1 series (4Q2017) | FLAIR series (2Q2018) | FOSSIL series (4Q2018) | FETISHES series (2Q2019) | LOST OBJECTS vol. 2 series (4Q2019) | MOVIE OBJECTS series (2Q2020). ALSO SEE: SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS website | SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS collection, ed. Rob Walker and Josh Glenn (Fantagraphics, 2012) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY, ed. Josh Glenn (Princeton Architectural Press, 2007) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY excerpts.

Categories

Codebreaking, Read-outs

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