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Following the death of a renowned and eccentric collector—the author of Stuff, a seminal philosophical work on the art of accumulation—the fate of the privately endowed museum he cherished falls to a peripatetic stranger who had been his fervent admirer. In his new role as caretaker of The Society for the Preservation of the Legacy of Dr. Charles Morgan, this restive man, ...more
Hardcover, 144 pages
Published September 15th 2020 by New Directions
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This novel works through an accumulation of one exquisite detail after another, rather than through action. For this reason it takes more commitment and concentration than a conventionally plot-driven novel, and its rewards are different, and deep. I don't think there is a better way to have told this story about the new caretaker for a strange collection of stuff, a museum where "peerless antiquities commune happily with the ignored, the discarded, the undervalued and the valueless." Doon Arbus ...more
It's hard not to imagine this first novel's themes springing from Arbus's personal experience as the long-time trustee of her mother's estate. Unfortunately for me it consisted of too much aimless tedium delivered in a style akin to a droning lecture from a distant corner of the room. Like many tedious lectures, it grew overtly didactic at times. I had initial doubts based on the cover alone, and now I wish I'd followed my instincts. My faith in New Directions has been shaken. ...more
This must be the greatest debut novel by a 75-year-old ever written. I had no idea of Arbus's age; I thought it was the very mature work of a young woman. The prose is controlled, very intelligent, with an excellent rhythm. What there is of a plot is always surprising, and the protagonist is one of the best of the lost losers who populate a large section of contemporary literary shelves (mostly by men). The short length is perfect, as is the novella’s present tense. Although I would have preferr ...more
The Caretaker narrates the tale of a bright, unmoored, unnamed protagonist who, midway through life’s path, discovers Stuff, a book by one Charles Morgan in defense of collecting bric-a-brac. At the time of this discovery, Morgan was still relatively fresh in the grave, and his estate in need of a docent to catalog, display, and explain Morgan’s life’s to visitors. Enter our protagonist. Perpetually single, perpetually unattached and, apparently, unaffected by sexual and emotional drives, the ca ...more
When a well-known collector named Dr. Charles Morgan dies, the management of his estate--which comprises the museum housing his eclectic, personal collection of objects--is turned over to a caretaker who has long admired Morgan’s artistic philosophy, which Morgan laid out in a tome titled Stuff. Indeed, the museum is filled with an abundance of things that range from priceless to worthless, and the public’s interest is minimal at best. Still, the caretaker treats every object with reverence, and ...more