Monday, October 12, 2009
From The New Yorker
King, a professor at Santa Barbara, has spent decades collecting things that nobody else would want: food packages and labels (he has about eighteen thousand), illustrations snipped from old dictionaries (seven thousand), linings of "security" envelopes (eight hundred patterns), "the mute, meager, practically valueless object, like a sea-washed spigot, its mouth stoppered by a stone." What makes this book, bred of a midlife crisis, extraordinary is the way King weaves his autobiography into the account of his collection, deftly demonstrating that the two stories are essentially one. "I lost and found myself in remote topical aisles of scholarship-wreck," he says of his hours in Yale’s library, reading the most obscure books he could find. His hard-won self-awareness gives his disclosures an intensity that will likely resonate with all readers, even those whose collections of nothing contain nothing at all.