The Comfort of Things

Front Cover
Polity, Jul 8, 2008 - Social Science - 302 pages
The diversity of contemporary London is extraordinary, and begs to be better understood. Never before have so many people from such diverse backgrounds been free to mix and not to mix in close proximity to each other. But increasingly people's lives take place behind the closed doors of private houses. How can we gain an insight into what those lives are like today? Not television characters, not celebrities, but real people. How could one ever come to know perfect strangers?
Danny Miller attempts to achieve this goal in this brilliant exposé of a street in modern London. He leads us behind closed doors to thirty people who live there, showing their intimate lives, their aspirations and frustrations, their tragedies and accomplishments. He places the focus upon the things that really matter to the people he meets, which quite often turn out to be material things, the house, the dog, the music, the Christmas decorations. He creates a gallery of portraits, some comic, some tragic, some cubist, some impressionist, some bleak and some exuberant.
We find that a random street in modern London contains the most extraordinary stories. Mass murderers and saints, the most charmed Christmas since Fanny and Alexander and the story of how a CD collection helped someone overcome heroin. Through this sensitive reading of the ordinary lives of ordinary people, Miller uncovers the orders and forms through which people make sense of their lives today. He shows just how much is to be gained when we stop lamenting what we think we used to be, and instead concentrate on what we are becoming now. He reveals above all the sadness of lives and the comfort of things.
 

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User Review  - JenneB - LibraryThing

Hmm, this wasn't quite what I expected, I guess. I think I thought it would be more obviously anthropological, with more distance between the writer and subjects...but still I enjoyed it for what it ... Read full review

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User Review  - chrisleeclark - LibraryThing

A fascinating anthropoligical study of households in a single street in contemporary London in which cosmologies that govern lives in other cultures and in other times, such as religion and sociology ... Read full review

Selected pages

Contents

Prologue
1
Portrait 1 EMPTY
8
Portrait 2 FULL
18
Portrait 3 A POROUS VESSEL
32
Portrait 4 STARRY GREEN PLASTIC DUCKS
46
Portrait 5 LEARNING LOVE
57
Portrait 6 THE ABORIGINAL LAPTOP
67
Portrait 7 HOME AND HOMELAND
73
Portrait 17 HEROIN
162
Portrait 18 SHI
171
Portrait 19 BRAZIL 2 ENGLAND 2
179
Portrait 20 A THOUSAND PLACES TO SEE BEFORE YOU DIE
186
Portrait 21 ROSEBUD
193
Portrait 22 THE ORIENTALIST
201
Portrait 23 SEPIA
207
Portrait 24 AN UNSCRIPTED LIFE
217

Portrait 8 TATTOO
83
Portrait 9 HAUNTED
90
Portrait 10 TALK TO THE DOG
100
Portrait 11 TALES FROM THE PUBLICANS
108
Portrait 12 MAKING A LIVING
117
Portrait 13 McDONALDS TRULY HAPPY MEALS
125
Portrait 14 THE EXHIBITIONIST
133
Portrait 15 REBIRTH
143
Portrait 16 STRENGTH OF CHARACTER
153
Portrait 25 OH SOD IT
227
Portrait 26 JOSÉ AND JOSÉS WIFE
234
Portrait 27 WRESTLING
241
Portrait 28 THE CARPENTER
252
Portrait 29 THINGS THAT BRIGHT UP THE PLACE
260
Portrait 30 HOME TRUTHS
274
Epilogue IF THIS IS MODERN LIFE THEN WHAT IS THAT?
282
Appendix THE STUDY
298
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About the author (2008)

Daniel Miller is Professor of Material Culture at University College London.

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