Taking Things Seriously: 75 Objects with Unexpected Significance

Those drawn to antique shops and yard sales will delight in this inviting collection. In brief essays with accompanying photographs, 75 contributors consider their intense feelings for one beloved object. By excluding family heirlooms and childhood toys, the editors ended up with a less obvious and more eccentric assemblage of stuff, everything from a Zippo lighter to a turtle tail to an empty glass jar. Co-editor Carol Hayes ruminates on a needlepoint sampler sewn by her aunt, which consists of the word "thoughts" surrounded by flowers; the mystery of the object "plunges into philosophical confusion" every time she looks at it. Rick Rawlins writes of being a lonely kid who couldn?t attend an almost-friend?s birthday party because his family was moving that day. He stopped by the party to say goodbye and was given a yellow sugar egg, which he?s kept for decades as a symbol of "the hope and promise of friendship." His is one of many instances in which the photograph amplifies the impact of the written words: the picture of that fragile, chipped piece of candy almost breaks your heart. Some contributors knew from the start why their chosen item held significance; some can?t quite explain their fierce attachment to the thing. Other objects started out meaningless but acquired importance over time, just by virtue of sticking around for so long. Whatever the case, the book is testament to Joshua Glenn?s statement in the introduction: "Just as we are collectors of things, things are collectors of meaning." -

July 23: Jessica Mitford died on this day in 1996.

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