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One Million Maniacs: Beanie Babies, Killer Cars, and The Power of Collecting Paperback – June 6, 2017
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"It takes a maniac like David LeGault to pry open the lids of all the boxes of our culture of accumulation and see what’s inside them. The maniac pursues long distance running, amateur competitive eating, parenting, tracking bathroom graffiti, and an obsession with the sets of defunct children’s game shows. The maniac begins to question what things are worth―media, particularly, from his perspective as CD buyer for a used bookstore chain in which he leverages his position to accumulate 100 copies of an album by 10,000 Maniacs. By the time you’re deep into this wonderfully obsessed book you too will wonder what anything is worth, really, and why we pursue, peruse, and keep it, how our stuff defiles and defies and defines us. One Million Maniacs is the result of a lifelong obsession with the glorious detritus of the culture, and it's a glorious debut." - Ander Monson
"An essay collection that considers the practice of collection itself? Sign me up! In these essays on Pogs, vintage CDs, bathroom graffiti, and weird fandom, David LeGault bravely tours readers through the inner-workings of a mind unable to stop cataloguing, accumulating, and wanting. With refreshing candor, considerable skill, and no small amount of humor, One Million Maniacs offers a fascinating portrait of obsession in the 21st century." - Elena Passarello, author of Animals Strike Curious Poses and Let me Clear My Throat
About the Author
David LeGault's work appears in Passages North, The Sonora Review, The Seneca Review, DIAGRAM, Fourth Genre, Ninth Letter, and Black Warrior Review, among others. He lived and wrote in Minneapolis, where he destroyed books professionally. He currently lives with this family in Prague.
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This book offers an interesting commentary on our search for identity through the lens of our "collections." As someone who - like the author -
spends a fair amount of time trying to recapture or recreate elements of my youth, I found this book to be a thought-provoking reflection on why we choose to give certain things meaning, and what we are looking for in the stuff (or in many cases, straight-up junk) that we hold on to.
This collection of short essays covers a pretty wide range of topics, from 80's video games to winter to the nature of used book stores. The moments where David is visibly wrestling with a sense of vocational identity amidst the backdrop of pop culture minutiae especially stand out, although the whole collection hangs together quite nicely. David's sense of his own voice is strong, and the style is engaging and evocative without being overbearing.
While reading this I was thinking about the kind of writing that used to appear on the now defunct Grantland.com. It's more personal than that, but fans of intelligent reflection on pop culture will be sure to enjoy this book.
More often though I found myself enjoying the insights and ruminations on collecting I had never considered. I really like David's way of expressing these things and the unique observations he makes. He also asks some pretty deep questions about the *meaning* of various collections and collecting habits. They made me think about these things in ways I had never considered.
I laughed often when reading too, particularly the first half the book - not only at hilarious observations, but in David's sharing of the "weird" side of life that I often found relatable.
The overall tone is pretty dark though, and at times it was hard to read. As a very relational and empathetic person, it hurt to read of David's ongoing hardships, rejections, failures, and dead-ends, particularly the second half of the book. But it is not without hope and it was worth sticking through to the last sentence. You'll just have to see for yourself!