Review Of "Carried Away: All About Bags" Edited By F. Chenoune

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Originally published to accompany the exhibition Le cas du sac, organized by the Musée de la Mode et du Textile and Maison Hermés, this is a sumptuously illustrated book on an essential item of material culture. But it is inevitably a mixed bag, with 35 brief essays by 20-odd writers. A few are insightful. The introduction by editor Chenoune (Columbia Univ., France) observes astutely that the bag, unlike the pocket, exposes itself and yet conceals its content secretively; in another essay he marvels at the ubiquitous plastic bag. François Dagognet in an interview philosophizes the bag as a metaobject, and Olivier Saillard gives a perceptive overview of the woman's handbag. But the bulk of the book focuses on the ethnographic panorama of bags, from a Tuareg's pouch to the almoner's purse, from a Nigerian bead bag to a seaman's duffel. The coverage is broad but conspicuously Francophile and less than comprehensive (despite the English title); the reader may miss the phenomenology of the plain brown bag, the briefcase, the doctor's black bag, the backpack, the kimono sleeve, and the codpiece. Nevertheless, this is an informative, delightful work. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers; lower-division undergraduates through faculty.


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