A man who collects plastic cauliflower bags deserves a certain respect. So between my mental trips to the water cube in Beijing, I’ve been reading a quirky new book by a University of California theater professor who collects things nobody else wants, like empty Cheez-It boxes and cauliflower bags that mimic “the sphericity of a cauliflower head.”
William Davies King seems to have low-keyed ambitions for Collections of Nothing (University of Chicago, 163 pages, $20), a cross between a memoir and a meditation on the impulse to acquire. He hasn’t tried to provide a definitive survey or analysis – just insights into the passion for accumulation that include this observation:
“Middle-class life is itself a collection: a spouse, a house, a brace of children, a suitable car, a respectable career, cuddly pets, photos of grinning relatives, toys for all ages and hours, coffee and coffee pots, coffee cups and spoons, coffee table books about coffee and about coffee tables.”
King offers a host of reasons for why the urge to collect is universal if you count people who collect jokes or friends or experiences instead of objects. But perhaps his most interesting idea is that collecting is a way of coping with the knowledge that you can’t own other people – which is what all of us really want. Read more about the book here www.press.uchicago.edu and an excerpt here www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/437002.html.
© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.