Reading and writing about minimalism naturally triggers a bit of online research. One day my search turned up the terms “Diderot effect,” and “Diderot unities.” I only knew of one Diderot, the 18th-century French philosopher–sure enough, the terms referred to him, and in particular to an essay he wrote on the problems with consumerism, “Regrets on Parting with My Old Dressing Gown.”
When the new spoils us for the old
Diderot describes the gift of a new red robe, so beautiful and luxurious that it makes everything else in his wardrobe and home look unacceptably shabby by comparison. So he replaces his utilitarian straw chair with a leather one, his simple fir bookshelf with an inlaid armoire, etc. This process of upgrading continues with purchase after purchase, including expensive art from auction houses, until he is in debt and his lifestyle no longer reflects his original values:
I was the absolute master of my old robe. I have become the slave of the new one.
The “Diderot effect” is the phenomenon of a new possession causing a chain reaction of acquiring more new possessions to go with it. Things that “go with” one another are referred to as “Diderot unities.” These terms were coined back in the 1980’s by anthropologist Grant McCracken in his book, “Culture and Consumption,” and expanded on by sociologist Juliet Schor in her essay, “Learning Diderot’s Lesson: Stopping the Upward Creep of Desire;” they have since become part of the language of analyzing consumer and marketing trends. Do a search for those terms, and you’ll find lots of articles and posts that pretty much say the same thing.
What I find particularly interesting is that Diderot is one of the foremost philosophers of the Enlightenment, also known Read more »
It’s really real!
It was always my intention to have a print version of An Uncollected Death. In fact, I wanted a print version more than just about anything else in the world after good health, etc. It took a while to get the manuscript re-edited and for Steve to lay out in Create Space, then re-lay out (twice, in fact, because I was obsessed), and then we waited for the proof copy to come, which was supposed to take about ten days.
It arrived in five. I was sitting here at my desk, working on the next book, when Steve came in with something behind his back and saying something along the lines of, “I think you’re gonna like what came in the mail just now.” I grabbed the package and actually started whimpering and hyperventilating as I opened it, and was almost overcome when I laid eyes on the cover, the pages, the feel, the thickness, the whole really real-ness of my first book in print.
Are you like me? Have you done something that you used to dream about as a little kid, back in the days when you’d imagine what you’d like to be when you “grew up?” Was it everything–or more–than you thought it would be?
Look, I know that there’s a difference between going ahead and publishing your work yourself and having it published by the Big Five, particularly in the cachet, the tradition, the validation. It’s a path I was on for the first ten years out of college. Back then, I wrote and produced three plays, wrote hundreds of poems and published a handful, wrote and published several short stories, a couple of essays, and even the sundry academic paper, along with three drafts of a mystery novel.
It was a path I had to leave, however, when divorce meant having to do something that actually earned an income, and earned it now. I still wrote, couldn’t stop, but it was in fits and starts, lots of journals, lots of NaNoWriMo, and various newsletters and blogs. Knowing all too well the no-pay, time-consuming drag of query letters and contributor’s copies, I didn’t even bother to try to get anything published.
Then came digital publishing, right about the time I ran out of income-producing options, and I went back to doing what I had intended to do all along, at least in a modest way. Like myself, more and more writers are questioning the necessity of going through the traditional publishing route. It can take years to shop around a book and get it published–if it happens at all, making the process a huge gamble for older writers or any writer with a limited amount of time and funds set aside for the purpose of establishing a writing career.
I have no idea, of course, if my novel series will ever do well enough to keep me in tea and sweaters. This new world of publishing and marketing options is evolving rapidly, and I’m learning more and more about it every day. Just as in traditional publishing, a great deal of luck is involved. But there’s one thing I’m convinced of: the self-published book doesn’t preclude traditional publishing; rather, I think it serves as proof of a writer’s ability to come up with a finished, edited product. Seems to me this is a win-win for everyone: the writer, the prospective publisher, and especially the reader.
What better luck, though, than to have lived long enough to be a writer in this new world of publishing–I actually have a book I can hold, that can go on the shelf in the local library, that can be read in book clubs, that can be purchased in the world’s biggest bookstore, that can be wrapped up and placed in someone’s hand, a book that can leave a bruise if I threw it at you (as if), a book that needs my old bunny rabbit bookmark, a book just like the ones I like to curl up with and read. It’s really real.
Buttoned up on the front…
It’s been a crazy few weeks around here, and I’ve been meaning to share this bit of knitting, a baby bunting loosely based on the one in Sally Melville’s The Knitting Experience. I started it when I learned the baby shower theme colors were orange and aqua, and found those colors in the DK weight of my current-favorite yarn, Berocco’s Comfort. It’s a very soft yarn that is also machine wash and dry.
The sonogram indicated a long-legged baby, so I added a few inches, but had no idea if it was the right size or not. One thing that’s changed about bunting over the years is the addition of a slot for the car seat buckle. It’s at the bottom of the row of buttons. (The buttons were actually leftovers from sewing rompers for my son 32 years ago. How un-minimalist!) Anyway, I noticed that the slot in the back would make the bunting a bit drafty when baby wasn’t in the car seat, so I added a little buttoned flap:
…and buttoned up on the back, too.
Cheerful-looking thing, isn’t it? Aren’t you glad I’m not showing you the first version, which was a total screwup? I’ve salvaged enough of it to make a baby sweater. There’s also enough yarn to make a small blanket in the “tumbling blocks” pattern. But the proof of its worthiness came from this:
It fit! It actually fit! How cool is that?
Love the new cover!
Today and tomorrow (March 6-7) you can get my tiny collection of very short stories, Spirits of Place, free on Amazon. It’s a quick read, seven flash fiction pieces that form one longer story about the relationship between consciousness and place, seasons in both nature and life. First published in 2012, it’s been updated with a new cover and forward.
Also, for today only (March 6), you can get The Minimalist Woman’s Guide to Having it All free on Amazon, as well. I wrote it nearly three years ago, and find that it still holds true, which is why I haven’t written more books on the subject.
Hope you find these enjoyable and/or useful, and if you already have them, let someone else know.
My granddaughter Ellie arrived last Wednesday afternoon, nine and a half pounds of adorable. Life feels so different. I didn’t think it would to such an extent, because, after all, she’s not my child, not living in my house, and I have no direct responsibility for her. When my son was born, I bonded with him so rapidly that during his first few months he was more appendage than person. But now I see another dimension of that connection as, fascinated, I watch him bond with his child, patiently waiting my turn to get to know her.
The family cherub