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Was She Pretty?

3.40  ·  Rating details ·  929 ratings  ·  133 reviews
A dreamy exploration of relationships and jealousy . . . pithy and deadpan . . . It's no self-help book." -- Salon

What's left when a relationship ends? Where does jealousy come from? Delicately and sensitively, Leanne Shapton (Swimming Studies) ruminates on ex-lovers, and our lovers' ex-lovers. A few expressive pencil lines outline a long-abandoned winter coat here, an
Paperback, 208 pages
Published February 2nd 2016 by Drawn and Quarterly (first published October 31st 2006)
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Average rating 3.40  · 
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 ·  929 ratings  ·  133 reviews

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Apr 04, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This author captures perfectly a soulless cosmopolitan perspective that is devoid of any real human spirit, a kind of materialism that transcends actual materialism. People as objects. Experiences as collector's items. One's life not just as a brand, but a very chic one. The uncanny and constant undercurrent of a self-awareness of the emptiness of it. The jealousy and yearning that that runs through the book is the same kind you might feel in a Manhattan boutique, where you don't know exactly ...more
Jan 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-reads
When I read the premise of this book, I knew I had to read it. It covrs the simple idea that most us are an ex or have an ex. She took that idea and combined it with a few sentences from interviews and simple ink drawings. It was simple and genius.
Minimalism at its best. Borrowed from the library. Its pages got wet in the basket of my bicycle on the way home. They soon enough came as dry as the wit which did writ it.

I chose to use parts of this text to teach English as a foreign language because of its use of ambiguity and baroque sentence structures. As an exercise in pedagogy, some of the pages were more successful than others. Much like the relationships described therein. Of course, any sort of judgement thereof begs the question as
lucy  black
Just a list of ex lovers. They all seemed the same, vapid, almost all white, rich, fashion types. All similarly drawn. I'm bored even trying to review it...
Feb 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
I felt a little guilty about adding this book to my "read" shelf, considering it takes about twenty minutes to get from cover to cover. However, I finally decided that Was She Pretty?—a combination of "epigrammatic vignettes and evocative line drawings" (according to the book flap copy)—deserves not only a star-rating, but a full review.

The book kicks off with a Kierkegaard quotation, which ends, "The chain is very flexible, soft as silk, yields to the most powerful strain, and cannot be torn
Sep 23, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Picked this up at the library on a whim when I spotted it nestled in the comic book section. It's a series of largely single page illustrations accompanied by short pieces of texts, usually a sentence or two and occasionally a full paragraph. The text and images are the links in the chain that connect us all together, the invisible ties we form in our relationships. Person A's current significant other once dated Person B who in turn dated Person C, and the impressions of those people linger ...more
Mar 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
a quick, quick read - funny, sweet, and ultimately a solid depiction of how we all engage with the past lovers of our lovers
Jan 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: graphic-novels, comic
The premise and execution of this book is simple and I love it. Everybody has an ex and everybody's been an ex. Shapton interviewed friends for short descriptions/explanations about their exes. Quick read, worth picking up. And the simple line drawings are perfect.
Feb 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels, 2016
I absolutely loved Shapton's previous work, Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry, which I still pull off my shelf occasionally to leaf through or show someone. This book isn't quite up to the same detailed standard, but I do love the way Shapton creatively organizes thoughts on relationships. Here, she tackles The Ex, The Ex-es, the men and women who were here before you. It resonates, man. ...more
Oct 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You'll be tempted to rush through this quick read. Take your time, glance back and pay attention to the names, that sometimes carry through longer threads. Give yourself a few moments to let the subtext of each epithet sink in.
Sep 21, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
best book i ever read in 20 minutes.
Lara Maynard
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
Part of me thinks this book is sort of neat. But a bigger part of me insistently wonders if it ever really needed to be a book. Maybe it should have been a little chapbook. Or a little virtual exhibit. Or an art school project. Does every sort of neat idea merit printing and selling? Hmmm. There's just something about this one that rubs me the wrong way on some level. Maybe that it seems like indulging a little idea in whole book form. And the fact that I wanted to tell most of the folks in the ...more
Oct 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: graphic-novel, 2017
A beautiful examination of the curiosities one has over their partner's exes. Simple as it is, with a modest illustration on one page and a single sentence or short paragraph on the opposing side, I was taken into some pretty deep thinking of my own curiosities.

I love the work of Leanne Shapton and the tone she sets in her work. It all belongs on my bookshelf.
I didn't find the art in this book as evocative as the text, but I think this was a really interesting project.
Ian Hrabe
This is fine and the rating is based on how it works as a graphic novel, which isn't all that well. You don't HAVE to treat it like a graphic novel, but since it was published by Drawn & Quarterly that's how I came at it. It's more of an art book, or a bound version of a French New Wave short. With the exception of one, multifaceted segment (which is the best part of the book), these drawings and one-sentence captions about fictional ex-lovers of fictional people would work very well as an ...more
Tereza Eliášová
Was she pretty? je miniaturka, kterou slupnete za chvilku, ale stojí za to. Od Leanne Shapton už jsem četla Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry a byla jsem nadšená. Teď jsem taky, ale trochu jinak.

Tahle knížečka je sbírkou minipříběhů, větiček a postřehů ze života a životů o tom, kdo všechno nás míjí a co všechno po sobě zanechává. Mozaika o tom, co ti před námi měli a my ne. Každý se mezi
Jul 03, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nyc, art
A bunch of line drawings mostly of people, with brief handwritten anecdotes, which are supposedly true and taken from interviews, about people's exes, with a really great introductory riff that then turns out to be by Kierkegaard.

Leanne Shapton herself complained, in her meatier and textier book, Swimming Studies, that she can't draw; I thought she was being modest, but it's kinda true. Still, this is a fun book to read (read? flip through?), a meditation on the idea that we all live with the
Mar 27, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult, 2016, art
Odd little depressing book. The author interviewed many people and got the story of their ex's exes in a sentence or two. Jealousy and craziness abounds. It made me feel mentally healthy, so that was a plus! The drawings are minimalist and the book only takes a few minutes to read, since there isn't much text. I kept looking for connections between the stories, but I didn't see any.
this is a one sentence on every other page sort of book/poem/curiosity. i had a wonderful time reading through its 198 pages on my lunch break, but now it is returning to its home at berkeley public library. not much of a vacation. sorry little book.
Jun 08, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
All about ex-boyfriends & ex-girlfriends, and there's no one central plot. It's more like a list, filled with snippets of stories and heartache and truth. I'll probably be pulling this off the shelf just to thumb through it. Each page of text is set off by an illustration. Fun to read out loud.
Erin Tuzuner
Light, quick, excellent artwork.
Dec 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this book is SO pretty. and very sweet. and it's a 20 minute read.
Melancholy look at failed relationships with words and line drawings.
Jul 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: graphic-novels
This is a really interesting, illustrated book (or graphic novel, or comic, but there are no panels, only illustrations) that catalogs short memories or stories about people's exes. The illustrations are simple black and white line drawings depicting an ex, or, occasionally, a memento from an ex, and the text accompanying each illustration is sometimes only a sentence long. At one point there is a chain of people - this person's ex to that person's ex and on - that had me going back through to ...more
May 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comics-graphic
"Margaret felt sick and racked with guilt. But after reading about Scott's ex-girlfriends (and his difficulty in committing to them), what she felt was not exactly jealousy, fear or suspicion: she felt love for Scott. Everything she adored about him was evident: the integrity he had toward his own instincts, his impatience with passivity, his boredom with shallow values, and his intolerance for cruelty. This did not go far to alleviate her nausea, or slow the spool of images rushing through her ...more
Jan 29, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Was expecting a lot more. My friend suggested this book after I told her I thought a problem with jealousy. There were some interesting passages but a lot to it was just novel and the passages that struck a cord were sad. The entire book is interesting because of the subject matter but I think jealousy in relationships is a complicated subject. It didn't really relieve any anxieties that I have, but I don't necessarily think that was the point. If you want an interesting conceptual book about ...more
May 31, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Was She Pretty" is a series of short observations with accompanying illustrations. I like the concept, but I wasn't blown away by the execution. However, this is mostly due to my personal preferences in artistic style. If you like Shapton's drawing style, you'll most likely enjoy the book. Her choppy line style read as a lack of confidence to me, but again, I can see how others would find it appealing.

The concept (curiosity/jealousy of exes) certainly has universal appeal, but I think I
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am not sure I "got" this book, but little tidbits into these character's lives was interesting and intriguing by how little of the story we got of each person. I like the Norse quote in the beginning of the book. The Fenris Wolf metaphor, I assume, for past relationships was both apt and unexpected.
What is it that binds us so tightly to the memories of our ex-lovers? Shapton delves into this murky topic by interviewing her friends about their boyfriend's ex-girlfriends. The illustrations are crudely drawn, and the words are few and perhaps not insightful enough. Still, this short book addresses a very interesting topic in a delightfully unique and artistic way.
Dana Neily
Nov 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Definitely won't be to everyone's or even most people's taste but I really enjoyed the experience of this book that made me think about what we learn about other people through those we love and the emotions this causes us to have about them. Sparse prose and simple drawings about people's 'ex's.'
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Leanne Shapton is an illustrator, author and publisher based in New York City. She is the co-founder, with photographer Jason Fulford, of J&L Books, an internationally-distributed not-for-profit imprint specializing in art and photography books. Shapton grew up in Mississauga, Ontario, and attended McGill Univesity and Pratt Institute. After interning at SNL, Harper's Magazine and for ...more