Finding something in a whole lot of nothing
Henry Alford reviewed William Davies King’s book, Collections of Nothing, in Sunday’s New York Times Book Review. King, writes Alford, inspires a certain wariness in the reader:
We’re talking about a man who once collected worn strips of masking tape that he pulled off the floor of a gymnasium, a man who collects the business cards of business card printers, even though he himself carries no business card.…
Part memoir and part disquisition on the psychological impulses behind the urge to accumulate, Collections of Nothing is a wonderfully frank and engaging look at one man’s detritus-fueled pathology. King’s honesty and ambivalence about his pastime only increases his emotional connection to the reader. I wanted, by turns, to breast-feed and strangle him.
King believes that the impulse to collect comes “partly from a wound we feel deep inside this richest, most materialistic of all societies.” But he also considers other possibilities—”It finds order in things, virtue in preservation, knowledge in obscurity, and above all it discovers and even creates value.” His own fondness is for “the mute, meager, practically valueless object. … What I like is the potency of the impotent thing, the renewed and adorable life I find in the dead and despised object.” For him, there’s “something in nothing.” A lot of nothing