The Promise of Things (Ruth Quibell, MUP)
The Promise of Things is the debut nonfiction book from sociologist Ruth Quibell, whose essays have appeared in magazines such as Island and Womankind. Quibell is interested in what she calls ‘an intelligent life with things’. From an antique wardrobe she can’t bear to throw away to a stone she collects off a beach and holds onto for comfort, Quibell cleverly demonstrates how humans relate to the inanimate. While Quibell weaves some memoir into her discussion, ultimately her book is an intellectual study of how and why we collect things. Her sociology background shines strongly throughout and she does a commendable job of synthesising complex theoretical concepts for readers. Each chapter can be taken as a standalone essay and topics range from society’s shift from handmade to mass-made objects to the materiality of modern life and the psychology of consumerism (her essay about a popular IKEA armchair is a particular standout). She draws on writers and thinkers as diverse as Michel Foucault, Simone de Beauvoir and Marie Kondo—author of the popular self-help guide about decluttering living spaces. However, Quibell’s book isn’t a guide and will be most appreciated by those with a pre-existing interest in philosophy.
Emily Laidlaw is a Melbourne-based writer and editor