Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Promise of Things by Ruth Quibell

The Promise of Things is a collection of essays exploring our relationship to inanimate objects. Why do we treasure some of them? How do objects affect the way we live, the way we think about things? I particularly like this quote as a representation of the book:
"[T]he object is always transforming or mediating our relationships to the world in some way. A car, for instance, transforms our relationships to space and time. A mirror changes our relationship to light and, more of than not, our own appearance." 
Most of the chapters start off with some personal anecdote or the other, so it's easy to think that this is a personal exploration of things and how the author relates to them. But, it has a surprising amount of outside sources woven into the text, making this a scholarly work as much as it is a personal one.

My favourite chapters in this book would be Chapter 5 "The Velvet Jacket" and Chapter 7 "The Singer Sewing Machine". The Velvet Jacket is a look at aspiration items, things that we imagine that once we own, will change our lives. But this isn't quite true. As the book puts it:
"The intriguing, the beautiful, and the coveted object can suggest this future and give it an aspect of tangible reality, but it is only us who can do the difficult practical, emotional and psychological work to bridge the gap between optimistic hopes and reality[.]"
The Singer Sewing Machine looks at "handmade objects" and why they have been so popular in recent times. Handmade vs store-bought is more than just value for money versus convenience, it represents a set of ideals and is a way we react to our current world.

Oh, and the last 'chapter', "Foucault's Toolbox" is really the references she used when writing the book. It gave me a surprise when I read it, so I thought I'd mention it here.

All in all, this is a beautifully written little book that takes a deep look at the things around us, and hopefully, can spark its reader to consider how they react to their things.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

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