We find it familiar to consider objects as useful or aesthetic, as necessities or vain indulgences. We are on less familiar ground when we consider objects as companions to our emotional lives or as provocations to thought. The notion of evocative objects brings together these two less familiar ideas, underscoring the inseparability of thought and feeling in our relationship to things. We think with the objects we love; we love the objects we think with.
Certain authors reflect on an object’s role in a significant life transition—an object serves as a marker of relationship and emotional connection. In other essays, the balance shifts to how an object tied the author to intellectual life—to building theory, discovering science or art, choosing a vocation. In every case, the object brings together intellect and emotion. In every case, the author’s focus is not on the object’s instrumental power—how fast the train travels or how fast the computer
calculates—but on the object as a companion in life experience: how the train connects emotional worlds, how the mental space between computer keyboard and screen creates a sense of erotic possibility.