Guestbook is divided into 33 numbered chapters combining fragments of text and found images. Nominally a collection of ghost stories, it’s a messier affair than Shapton’s other books: ‘ghosts’ can cover almost anything. The stories are vivid and impressionistic, and seem to have been built around whatever caught Shapton’s eye: old Christmas wrapping paper; hand-tinted photographs of roses and sunsets; watercolour reproductions of the final sequence from Visconti’s Death in Venice; black and white snapshots of blurred figures and leafless trees; a sculpture, in soft white stone, of a woman turned away, as if protecting a secret.
In the lexicon of reviewer-speak, entries don’t come more hackneyed than “haunting”. The urge to reach for it should be a critic’s cue to do more thinking, and yet in the case of Leanne Shapton’s new volume, Guestbook, this diaphanous adjective feels oddly precise. It’s a book that is, after all, subtitled Ghost Stories; more particularly, its pages summon up a persistently uncanny atmosphere that is impossible to pin down, remaining purposefully, lingeringly opaque... Of course, this book is an artefact in itself – a tactile, mysterious and seductive one. Read it once and you’ll be very likely to find yourself eyeing it every now and again, wondering whether it’s exactly where you left it, and whether you could possibly have turned down the corner of this page or that