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Once upon a time we knew the origins of things: what piece of earth the potato on our dinner plate came from, which well our water was dipped from, who cobbled our shoes, and whose cow provided the leather. In many parts of the world, that information is still readily available. But in our society, even as technology makes certain kinds of information more accessible than ever, other connections are irrevocably lost.
In Glass, Paper, Beans, Leah Cohen traces three simple commodities on their geographic and semantic journey from her rickety table at the Someday Café to their various points of origin. As Cohen draws the reader Oz-like across time and continents, she brings to life three unforgettable characters whose labor provides the glass for her mug, the pulp for her newspaper and the beans for her cup of coffee. In prose as sophisticated as it is simple, she braids the myths, lore, and history of these three simple staples and conjures an unseen world where economics, fetishization, and manufacture meet.
An elegant and inspired inquiry into the true nature of things, Glass, Paper, Beans is a classic work on the economy of everyday life.
"I absolutely love this book. There is one chapter, in particular, that has been very influential in my own scholarly work--the chapter on The Fetish. In my dissertation work (now in preparation for a book manuscript), I analyze the band Phish and Phish "phan" culture. Among the many things I look at, I deal with the material culture surrounding the band and phan practice. Phan memorabilia, especially T-Shirts, are theorized in depth. Cohen's work elucidating the meaning-fulllnes of things in our lives--indeed, their very inextricability when it comes to the human experience itself--is essential reading--and has been central to my own work. I know that this book will continue to be opened, as I continue to work on this aspect of popular music fandom. Relatedly, I am also preparing to assign portions of this book in my graduate-level class later this semester, Everyday Politics of Popular Culture."
--Jnan A. Blau, Assistant Professor of Communication and Cultural Studies, Department of Humanities, Michigan Technological University