Crap - A History of Cheap Stuff in America
Crap. We all have it. Filling drawers. Overflowing bins and baskets. Proudly displayed or stuffed in boxes in basements and garages. Big and small. Metal, fabric, and a whole lot of plastic. So much crap. Abundant cheap stuff is about as American as it gets. And, it turns out these seemingly unimportant consumer goods offer unique insights into ourselves--our values and our desires. In Crap: A History of Cheap Stuff in America, Wendy A. Woloson takes seriously the history of objects that are often cynically dismissed: things that are not made to last; things we don't really need; things we often don't even really want. Woloson does not mock these ordinary, everyday possessions, but seeks to understand them as a way to understand aspects of ourselves, socially, culturally, and economically: Why do we--as individuals and as a culture--possess these things? Where do they come from? Why do we want them? And what is the true cost of owing them? Woloson tells the history of crap from the late eighteenth century up through today, exploring the many categories of crappy things, including gadgets, knickknacks, novelty goods, mass-produced collectibles, giftware, and variety store merchandise. As Woloson shows, not all crap is crappy in the same way--decorative bric-a-brac, for instance, is crappy in a different way from, say, advertising giveaways, which are differently crappy from commemorative plates. Taking on the full brilliant and depressing array of crappy material goods, the book explores the overlooked corners of the American market and mindset, revealing the complexity of our relationship with commodity culture over time. By studying crap, rather than finely made material objects, Woloson shows us a new way to truly understand ourselves, our national character, and our collective psyche. For all its problems, and despite its disposability, our crap is us.