Collection, Collectors & Obsessions

Do I collect anything? Stories. I think that the stories people tell me, the stories that fall out of the newspaper and into my imagination, the stories I dream, and the stories I read and save in my mind are my collection. Sure, I have books, but I’ve been shedding them, winnowing the physical library down faster than I add to it. I have Tango shoes, but I’m giving away the ones I don’t wear. Yes, I have art—but not a conscious and curated collection. I’m comfortable having a few of pieces in many categories, and I seem to lack the gene that pushes true collectors to amass multiples of their treasured obsession.

Stories about collectors and collections attract me. The quest to fill in all the missing pieces, to collect first editions, to display porcelain cats, to accumulate souvenir thimbles, to assemble a definitive collection of chess sets, to seek out rare antique Tarot cards, to exhibit vintage movie posters…. To me, the stories produced by that brand of passion are more intriguing than the collections.

Last spring I was in Barcelona at a marvelous museum filled with obsessive collections. Museu Frederic Marès contains thousands of sculptures donated to the city by the sculptor and obsessive collector Frederic Marès.

I was enthralled, intrigued, and finally a little bit horrified! Room after room after room…multiples upon multiples creating a repetitive narrative made up of the same pieces in a loop of images. One 4th century wooden crucifix, even two or three in a room is one kind of experience. But wall after wall, room after room, and each individual work of art, history, culture, religion, and emotion, is transformed by the obsessional nature of the groupings. Virtually everything in that museum was displayed as a puzzle piece and not an artifact on its own.

It was dizzying.

The better part of a year has passed and I still shiver at the thought. I got lost in Frederic Marès’ obsessions. I felt like I was falling into someone else’s fever dream. I’m still haunted and will someday transform that memory into a story; it will be a peek inside the collector’s deep passion.

Display cases crowded with multiples…


The power of individual objects changes…


  1. More so than stories, I would say I collect information. I am always reading about some topic I want to know more about and bookmarking articles for future reference. It’s a never-ending process that I wish I could turn off, but at best, I can lower the urge to a simmer at times. But speaking of stories, I went to the bagel shop in town this Friday morning and had the most delightful time eavesdropping on a table of old geezers. It’s an activity I don’t do nearly often enough given how delightful I always find it.

    • Candy Korman

      A variation on the non-object collector!

      Yes, information is a kind of power and there is a passion to know more that drives many of us to research detours and piles of notes. Will this knowledge inform your fiction? Yes. Will it make you a more intelligent reader? Definitely.

      And— most of all —will the bagel eating geezers provide excellent entertainment? YES!

  2. lol – my first reaction was to say that I enjoy collecting information like Jeri – my blog is full of odd tech articles that are probably of real interest only to me. But then I had a sudden flash of my sitting room cabinet. It’s a big old wooden thing with sliding glass doors on top that my Dad restored decades ago. Up there I keep my favourite pieces of china and glassware, including about 16? sets of cups and saucers. Each one is different, none match and I’ve been quietly collecting them for years. Yet I don’t really see myself as a collector. Hmm.

    • Candy Korman

      Many, many years ago I sat down for a long talk about collecting with a serious collector. He was the inspiration for the party host in The Mary Shelley Game. He had some serious collections and he admitted that he was driven to acquire more and more objects once he became entranced by a particular theme, period or category. He told me that there was a significant difference between a casual collection (your cups & saucers) and an obsession. It isn’t just an order of magnitude, it is a serious need. He thought all passionate collectors had “a hole inside them that they filled with objects” and those objected resonated with a period in their development as a person. His take was Freudian … but that didn’t stop him from collecting. He warned me to think twice before getting involved in relationships with collector men, adding that a man filling a garage with the cars of his youth was shouting his dysfunction.

      The repetition of objects in the museum knocked me over! Mares was a true collector. But I found the displays overwhelming. One, two, three… twenty, thirty, forty… and the rooms display more than the collection. The rooms display the obsessional mind.