The time is perfect for a short, smart purse book. The "good bag" has nudged out shoes, jeans, and jewelry as the must-have fashion possession. Despite price hikes -- $1,445 for a Prada bowler bag that once cost $940 -- the craze for high-end purses helps fuel the booming luxury-goods market and, via knock-offs, hugely influences the $6 billion-a-year mainstream handbag industry. But purse mania isn't just an outgrowth of a strong luxury-goods market -- human thoughts, feelings, and dreams are involved, too. As Nadia, a high-powered interior designer says, "My cell and my big Tod's purse -- that is my life." In IT'S IN THE BAG, noted journalist Winifred Gallagher explains it what means for a purse to be a life. This cultural history of the handbag borrows from psychology (Freud noted that sometimes a purse is a vagina -- which is perhaps why the first "handbags" were carried by men!), sociology (a purse as a "status symbol") and even economics (Why have prices gotten so steep?). Researched and erudite yet always fun, Winifred Gallagher offers in IT'S IN THE BAG a charming theory of modern identity as seen through one of our keenest obsessions.