Amazon Best of the Month, December 2008
: One of the oddest memoirs of the year may well be the best. William Davies King is a theater professor who over his fifty-plus years has gathered, in countless binders and boxes, a vast collection of things nobody else wants: cat-food labels, chain letters, skeleton keys, cereal boxes, chopstick wrappers, the "Place Stamp Here" squares from the corners of envelopes. It's an obsession you might think was inexplicable--least of all by the one obsessed--but in Collections of Nothing
King makes his mania seem nearly rational, and the personal drama of it wryly fascinating. (Imagine if Henry Darger had written witty, self-aware essays that analyzed his obsessions without puncturing their mystery.) King is an academic and he's been through therapy, but he writes free of the clots and cliches of both of those disciplines, contemplating what he calls "the cumbersummation of me" with the myopic elegance of Nicholson Baker and a moving understanding that this strange, apparently worthless collection--and now this lovely and wise book about it--are what he has to offer the world. --Tom Nissley
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 Yales 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.
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