Thursday, November 5, 2015

Collecting Nothing, Again

There is no end to what is collectible, or perhaps better, to what people actually do collect. Her the story of one Jonathan Safran Foer.
He started it when a friend sent him the top sheet of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s stack of unused typewriter paper, which inspired him to contact authors and request the blank pages they were going to write on next. He got pages from Richard Powers, Susan Sontag, Paul Auster, David Foster Wallace, Zadie Smith, John Updike, Joyce Carol Oates, and others. He even persuaded the director of the Freud Museum in London to hand over the top sheet from a stack of blank paper in Sigmund Freud’s desk. Foer’s unusual hobby illustrates powerfully how the most mundane objects accrue value through their histories. [1]
I am not so sure that these pages are "most mundane objects" that "accrue value through their histories." They are objects that accrue values through the beliefs of those who collect them. There no guarantee that the sheets Foer was sent actually were the blank page on which the author was going to write next. There is only the belief of the collector(s). I agree: "We respond to what we believe are [the] objects’ deeper properties, including their histories." In other words, we respond in these cases to our own illusions. Not all collecting is like that, or so I would like to believe. But then the piece is not so much about collecting as it is about conspicuous consumption which seems to me a different matter altogether.

1. Paul Bloom, "The Lure of Luxury", Boston Review, Monday, November 2, 2015.

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