Marketplace of Ideas

In her 2005 Queen of the Oddballs, author Hillary Carlip announced that a lifetime of trying on different personas (juggling instructor, actor, singing telegram) had convinced her that being herself was her most fulfilling role. Apparently, she’s changed her mind, at least temporarily.

In Carlip’s new à la Cart: The Secret Lives of Grocery Shoppers, she appears as 26 different people with the help of elaborate makeup and costuming. The characters in the deluxe photo book were inspired by abandoned grocery lists. “I’ve always been fascinated with these lists,” says Carlip of the discarded scraps of paper she finds in shopping carts, scribbled with notes about what to buy. “And I always find myself wondering who left them behind.”

Putting faces and names to the characters was the challenge for Carlip, who wrote an essay to accompany each of photographer Barbara Green’s startling portraits. There’s Woody, whose two-item shopping list (“Oreos, Coors”) is written on a matchbook cover. And slutty Pammy, who’s looking for Nair, Coffee Mate, and Gummi Bears. The most time-intensive of Carlip’s transformations was Heather, who’s featured on the cover shopping in the makeup aisle. “It was all her tattoos,” Carlip says.

Carlip presents a multimedia presentation about à la Cart at Changing Hands Bookstore.

Tue., April 29, 7 p.m., 2008

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