For this book Miller interviewed 100 households that lived in a London street. This book is a selection of about 30 portraits he wrote from these interviews. His focus is on how these people define themselves by their possessions and draw comfort from them. Miller is not suggesting that we are slaves to consumerist urges; the analysis is more subtle than that – our belongings are parts of our paralanguage as much as gestures and clothes.

 I’m reading it to better understand people’s relationship with things they collect, horde or just don’t throw away. This will inform my writing on Wainwright Caspinal and his collection.  So far it has been a little disappointing. I’m only a little way through the book, but most of the portraits have been a little too affirmative and read like a TV psychologist telling their viewers what they want to hear. The most interesting portrait was about a man who seemed to own nothing, as the absence of things raised important questions about how possessions affect our lives and a symbolic of experience. Maybe I’m just looking for too much misery as this would better suit Wainwright and my story.

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