Collections of Nothing

“I collect nothing—with a passion.”  (p. 6).

It is not until page forty-six of the book Collections of Nothing by William Davies King that the author refers to his collecting as hoarding.  As bad as that word may sound when doing a self-analysis, the good news is that King is neither a traditional compulsive hoarder nor a traditional collector. 

“What I collect is not what anyone would want.”  (p. 6).

A compulsive hoarder grabs anything, retains everything and puts themselves at risk by their abnormal storing habit that begins to limit normal functionality.  King is too self-aware of his own need to collect to be a true hoarder but he certainly has most of the tendencies.  In this book, King makes us aware of the personal background and psychological causes of his retreat into his collection.  From his parents, his mentally challenged sister Cindy and his boarding school education, King receives all the ingredients he needs to build a hoarder’s soup.

“My collecting continues to be oppressive to others and my self.”  (p. 6).

King is not a traditional collector either.  Traditional collectors are normally concerned about the value of their collection and often collect to create communication with fellow collectors so that there is an increase in their own value in the world as well as an increase in the value of the collection.

“What I collect is not what anyone would want.”  (p. 6).

None of this is of any importance to King as he collects things with no value.  A collection of nothing, as he refers to it.  The irony in this memoir is that as he tells us how he rejects the public aspects of his collecting, his salvation may be the fact that he wrote this book about it.  While it was too late to save his marriage, it might not be too late to save his relationship with his two daughters.

“I am the collector of nothing, which means I am not in the collection of collectors of something, sadly not in your company, yet I collect.  Nothing.  It sounds like a metaphor, but my metaphor weighs tons.  It sounds like a cry for help.”  (p. 6-7).

 Back on Tuesday, November 29, 2011, I wrote about two books about picking and how that might relate to a program at the library.  Now you can throw this memoir in the mix as well and add another program about the difference between a collection of value and hoarding.  This book is much more than a discussion of collecting;  rather, it is an intense memoir of self-analysis that will create many discussion points for any books discussion group.  It will also address every one’s guilt about that one strange collection they have stored away in a closet.

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About the Author:

Gary Niebuhr is the author of Make Mine a Mystery (2003), Caught up in Crime (2009), and other readers' guides to mystery and detective fiction. He was a Booklist contributor from 2008-2014.

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