Seeking to illuminate the emotional relationship between people and things, a psychiatrist examines objects from Beanie Babies to a “Roboslapper” through the lens of literature, academic sources and his personal observations.
We start our psychological connection with the material world early, contends Akhtar (Psychiatry/Jefferson Medical Coll.; Immigration and Identity, 1999, etc.). A baby blanket or teddy bear allows toddlers to “create the experiential realm between the inner world and external reality.” This grows into the ability to grasp the world on a metaphorical level and opens the door to understanding art and literature. A section entitled “Everything” touches upon anthropologists’ view that amassing belongings helps human beings mark milestones; it also looks at the driving role played in the urge to collect by childhood experiences, particularly loneliness. “Sacred Things” yields a mixed bag of largely basic information about topics including the Wailing Wall, the elephant-headed deity Ganesha and the Dome of the Rock, along with interesting etymological analyses of “sacred,” “profane” and the Hebrew word “qadosh.” Abruptly switching gears from the sacred, “Sexy Things” explores the very subjective notion of what makes something a turn-on. After offering overbroad distinctions between men’s and women’s perceptions, Akhtar stumbles into a few judgmental and off-kilter conclusions. For example, he soberly informs us that the anal insertion of a cucumber, banana or even a dildo “is a travesty of the purposes for which these objects are made.” Among the highlights are some intriguing thing-related factoids: The inventor of the Frisbee instructed his family that after death his remains should be incorporated into limited edition Frisbees; after the Collyer brothers’ deaths in the 1940s, New York police could barely enter their residence, crammed as it was with nearly 180 tons of junk, including six tons of old newspapers, the chassis of a Model T Ford and an armory of weapons and firearms.
A large premise yields slight results.