A lush, disorienting novel, The Caretaker takes no prisoners as it explores the perils of devotion and the potentially lethal charisma of things
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, in service to an absent master, at last finds his calling. The peculiar institution over which he presides is dedicated to the annihilation of hierarchy: peerless antiquities commune happily with the ignored, the discarded, the undervalued and the valueless. What transpires as the caretaker assumes dominion over this reliquary of voiceless objects and over its visitors is told in a manner at once obsessive and matter-of-fact, and in language both cocooning and expansive. A wry and haunting tale, The Caretaker, like the interplanetary crystal that is one of the museum’s treasures, is rare, glistening, and of a compacted inwardness.
Kafka or Shirley Jackson may come to mind, and The Caretaker may conjure up various genres―parables, ghost stories, locked-room mysteries―but Doon Arbus draws her phosphorescent water from no other writer’s well.
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