By Emily Spivack. (Princ eton Architectural Press, 159 pages, $24.95.)
Tucked in the back of most people’s closets is one thing — a crumpled hat, a worn-out pair of shoes, an old bomber jacket — that the owner cannot bear to part with. There’s always a reason — an anecdote, a heartbreak, a sentiment that keeps them hanging on. In “Worn Stories,” writer Emily Spivack has collected 67 stories and photographs about clothing kept by artists, designers, musicians and others.
The garments represented here — a mouse-nibbled pullover, a ballet dancer’s leg warmers, a drag queen’s chain-mail brassiere, a pair of sunglasses, a whole bunch of ratty old T-shirts — produce wonderful stories that are painful and funny, what Spivack calls “memoirs in miniature.”
Journalist Susan Orlean talks about her habit of buying “uniforms” — falling in love with a certain item of clothing, buying multiple versions of it and then suddenly falling out of love. Singer Roseanne Cash cannot part with her father’s purple tuxedo shirt, which she never wears, but the sight of which makes her smile. Writer Heidi Julavits hangs onto a pair of white tennis shoes that remind her of the class distinctions of her childhood.
It’s a fascinating, poignant book, and at the end it’s hard not to wonder — are they just great storytellers? Or do they just have more interesting clothes?
REMAINS OF INNOCENCE
By J.A. Jance. (William Morrow, 389 pages, $26.99.)
By page 10, I’d fallen in love with Liza Machett, a small-town waitress who somehow survived a childhood of squalor, raised by a mentally unstable mother so consumed by hoarding and poverty that family members used an outhouse and weren’t allowed to heat water to clean. Or were they poor? After Liza’s elderly, estranged mother ends up in the emergency room, Liza is forced to return to the house, only to discover $100 bills — hundreds of them — hidden among the books and magazines. Tracing the origins of the money, and the string of deaths that result after it is discovered, sends Liza on a cross-country journey to Cochise County, Ariz., where she encounters Sheriff Joanna Brady, who is struggling to solve a mystery of her own.
That case — the death of a developmentally disabled man whose body was found with starved and tortured animals — along with Liza’s arrival provide a double dose of drama in “Remains of Innocence,” a deeply satisfying page-turner by New York Times bestselling author J.A. Jance. The dual mystery is mostly effective, although the strength of the book rests squarely on the shoulders of Liza Machett’s case and Sheriff Brady’s handling of it. Fans of the popular Joanna Brady series won’t be disappointed, and readers unfamiliar with it would do well to start here.
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