Daily Archives: January 20th, 2023

Two more Object Lessons from Bloomsbury Academic

I know, I’m a bit obsessed with this series. But they keep popping up on NetGalley, and I keep being intrigued, and I keep being approved for them… and so I keep reading them…

Mushroom

Intriguingly, Mushroom is perhaps the most surprisingly metaphorical of these so far. It’s certainly not quite what I expected. There are short sections about specific mushrooms, related to (northern hemisphere) seasons. But the main sections are Mystery, Metaphor, Mycology, Medicine and Magic. All of these things I know relate to mushrooms and the history of their use by humans; there was a bit more emphasis on the metaphor aspect overall than I had anticipated. Which was certainly interesting, just not what I imagined!

Mushrooms are eaten for sustenance, of course, but they have also been used for medical and spiritual and magical purposes. Rich explores all of these, and – as most of these books do – also situates the discussion very personally.

Not quite what I expected, but not something I regret reading.

Alarm

This was another excellent addition to this series. With chapters headed Clock, Fire, Siren, Security, Siren, “Failure, False, Fatigue”, and Future, Bennett takes us on a rollicking ride through alarms. There’s history and technology, sure. But there’s also art and culture, and the ways in which alarms are not neutral objects or sounds but can mean different things – particularly, she stresses, in America, where police sirens can mean different things depending on your skin colour (and I suspect the same thing may be true in Australia, at least to some extent). The idea of alarms as a prosthetic is profound – supplementing or replacing our own vigilance; but of course, now smart watches etc are encouraging us to be MORE vigilant (‘closing the ring’). Also, feeding into the capitalist world (my intention to never have one was significantly reinforced by reading this.)

Also, starting a book about alarms with Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, comparing the watchman, Clytemnestra’s alarm system, and Cassandra as alarm? INSPIRED.

Loved it. One of my favourites to date.