Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Sublimated collections

"Collecting is a species of insatiable desire, a Don Juanism of objects in which each new find arouses a new mental tumescence, and generates the added pleasure of scorekeeping, or enumeration. Volume and tirelessness of conquest would lose some of its point and savor were there not a ledger somewhere with one's assorted mille e tre (and, preferably, a factotum to keep it updated), the happy contemplation of which at off-moments counteracts the exhaustion of desire that the erotic athlete is condemned to and against which he struggles. But lists are a much more spiritual enterprise for the athlete of material and mental acquistitiveness.

"The list is itself a collection, a sublimated collection. One does not actually have to own the things. To know is to have (luckily, for those without great means). It is already a claim, a species of possession, to think about them in this form, the form of a list: which is to value them, to rank them, to say they are worth remembering or desiring.

"What you like: your five favorite flowers, spices, films, cars, poems, hotels, names, dogs, inventions, Roman emperors, novels, actors, restaurants, paintings, gems, cities, friends, museums, tennis players . . . just five. Or ten . . . or twenty . . . or a hundred. For, midway through whatever number you settled for, you always wish you had a bigger number to play in. You'd forgotten there were that many things you liked.

"What you've done: everyone you've gone to bed with, every state you've been in, country you've visited, house or apartment you've lived in, school you've attended, car you've owned, pet you've had, job you've held, Shakespeare play you've seen. . .

"What the world has in it: the names of Mozart's twenty operas or of the kings and queens of England or of the fifty American state capitals. . . Even the making of such lists is an expression of desire: the desire to know, to see arranged, to commit to memory.

"What you actually have: all your CDs, your bottles of wine, your first editions, the vintage photographs you've purchased at auctions—such lists may do no more than ratify the acquiring lust, unless, as it is with the Cavaliere, your purchases are imperiled.

"He wants to know what he has, now that it may be lost to him. He wants to have it forever, at least in the form of a list."

--Susan Sontag, The Volcano Lover

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