The ‘Why We Broke Up Project’
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, love–and inevitably love lost–respectively grace and haunt the air. Author Daniel Handler ( also known as Lemony Snicket for his popular children’s A Series of Unfortunate Events) and illustrator Maira Kalman represent the latter camp with the unique timing of the end of their current tour promoting their collaborative literary and visual work of art, Why We Broke Up, published in novel-form last year.
Why We Broke Up is simultaneously book and project, a written and illustrated collection of stories and mementos of relationships past (not unlike the idea behind the Museum of Broken Relationships). The novel, which received high critical praise from reviewers like the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times Book Review, details the story of Min Green and Ed Slaterton–from their first encounter to their subsequent break up.
Says Handler of his work, “Why We Broke Up is my new novel, in the form of a long letter from a girl named Min Green to a boy named Ed Slaterton. The letter comes with a box, and inside the box are all of the souvenirs from their love. Each of the items is the subject of a painting by Maira Kalman.”
Handler adds that he and Kalman “dug deep into our own romantic histories, remembering all of the times we’ve been dumped,” and sites the reason for turning this novel into an interactive web project is because “it doesn’t seem fair that we would have to do this and you wouldn’t.”
Thus, like the Museum of Broken Relationships, Handler and Kalman invite the website’s visitors to submit stories of their break-ups and share their heartbreak, ushering in the a more somber side to today’s social realm. Users can write notes in the following categories: “I can’t believe how disgusting you were”; “I can’t believe there was someone else”; “I can’t believe you did that”; “I can’t believe you wore that”; “I can’t believe that’s what you thought”; “I just can’t believe” and “I’d take you back in a minute.”
Apart from exquisite prose and pictures, the website’s thoughtful, hand-sketched design demonstrate Handler and Kalman’s mastery of the delicate art of balancing poignancy with whimsy. So far, the shared ‘why we broke up’s have followed suit, ranging from the mundane–”her hair smelled”–to the intellectual–”I thought it was a bad sign that he didn’t know who Ernest Hemingway was, and he thought I was lazy. We were both right.”
Handler and Kalman are ending their book tour this week in northern California, but the project is ongoing, and the book can be picked up “wherever ebooks and books are sold.”
Interested parties just may want to stay clear until after February 14. Then again, maybe not.