i rarely buy books. it's kind of embarrassing. i wear glasses and look smart, but i generally tend toward comics, zines or (usually) making things when i could be reading. but when i saw faythe's mention of collections of nothing by william davies king, i felt a very strong pull to it. i would be lying if the fact that the cover hints at his security envelope collection of 800+ patterns didn't have a lot to do with it.
possession, acquisition, collection and material concerns have been very much on my mind this past year (or more) as i sift through the leftover materials of my father's life and absorb the important things that my grandparents left behind when they moved into their new assisted living home (which they love, by the way). there's a whole bunch of family and personal history that i don't really feel like getting into but suffice it to say that issues of hoarding and material are deeply interesting to me.
i can only write from personal opinion, so i'll say that i found the book pretty amazing, confusing, upsetting, exciting, annoying, indicting, and comforting. it basically lead me through a large swath of feelings and thoughts in relation to this stranger's life history, behaviours and deconstructions of both. as annoyances go, i had a hard time (as i usually do) with some hopefully involuntary trappings of academia that the writing dips into at times. i have a very deep-rooted knee-jerk hate-on for academic blather but then, it never really worked for me. mostly, though, these feelings probably stem from the permission king gives readers to come right inside his life. he has laid himself bare (awkwardness and neurosis included).
the more detached processing of the notion of collection and collector were what i really clung to in the book. i am still turning many of his ideas around in my head. king's collections (in a voyeuristic way) came into my life at the exact right time. i am currently wrestling with my own heaps of envelopes, jars of shredded money and crushed pop cans. reading the thoughts and struggles of this similar (yet very different) stuff-magnet felt really useful to me at this time. i was also strangely fascinated by how some of him collections seemed oppressive to me, some repulsive and some delightful even though they all occupy a very similar space of uselessness. food. for. thought.
leah, you should read it. actually, a bunch of people i know should.
update (march 24, 2010) - here is a video documenting some of his collections that professor king shared with me: