Saturday, May 23, 2020

The Golden Flea: A Story of Obsession and Collecting

The Golden Flea is a weirdly charming and engaging story of collecting, collectors, and flea markets against the backdrop of the  author's particular obsession with the now-defunct Chelsea Flea Market in Manhattan. Released 21st April 2020 by W. W. Norton & co., it's 224 pages and is available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats.

This is not in any way a how-to guide, there are no tips or tricks for finding hidden treasures. This is a direct and simply told story of the author's experiences with the flea market and a slice of life memoir of some of the buyers and sellers he encounters along the way. The story, I think, is indelibly American, and more specifically New York. Especially the interactions and language are indubitably New York, this story couldn't be told in this way in San Jose, CA or London, or Paris.

I'm a collector and obsessive in my (very niche) habits. I love (and restore, and use) fountain pens, embroidery samplers (especially English, 17th-18th century), and books. I understand the heartbreak and thrill of the chase and the stupendous glee of the win. This author definitely "gets it" too. 

The language is rough and often perjorative, but not gratuitous. The author has some good points about mental health and potentially obsessive collecting and the meta-narrative is well wrapped inside the story of a guy who really really liked to go to the flea market and the people he encountered on his sojourns.

I found it engaging and worthwhile. I can understand readers wanting a different book being disappointed in it. Four stars for me (one of the weirdos asking innocently, "do you happen to have any old linens or embroidered pillowcases or hankies" at the crack of dawn on a Saturday).

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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