A collection of illustrations and sentences, rather than a graphic novel, is what I would call Leanne Shapton’s Was She Pretty? Spurred by the reminders of her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend, Shapton asks, sketches, and shares sparse details about other peoples’ former lovers.
'Jason’s ex-girlfriend was Taylor. She was from the South,” is how the book begins.
Though it can range to the bizarre: “Alasdair’s ex-girlfriend was his first cousin Annabel. Their family was very casual about it all. They were a close-knit clan of eccentric and photogenic aristocrats who often modeled for luxury ad campaigns,”
Given the subject matter (another human!) the several short sentences seem both shallow and strangely appropriate. The title too, Was She Pretty?, points to how we know our other’s exes, or even our ex’s others, only by uncomfortable proxy, leaving an incomplete and inaccurate veneer of them in our minds.
So I ask, what is the question you ask regarding your current significant other’s previous lover? Or, your former lover’s new significant other? “Elizabeth,” for example, “had no problem with exes. It was the women who replaced her that drove her crazy,”
I know you have one so I’ll start: Is she skinny? Is she smart?
Photos by Tom Newton.