The Collectors

Matt Bell

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“‘Even a book can be a door,’ suggests the narrator of Matt Bell’s The Collectors. What you’ll find behind this particular door are two shaken and shaky brothers losing their tenuous grip on reality, slowly filling their house with decades of booby-trapped detritus and precious trash. The Collectors is a compelling portrait both of the way a heated mind can come to recreate the world and of how fascination with such a mind can end up being its own sort of trap. A wonderful, obsessive novella.”

Brian Evenson, author of The Open Curtain

“Matt Bell makes of the pathology of the miser, hoarder, or packrat an emblem of the obsessive life and makes his reader understand how the compulsion to collect may be only the mind’s seeking to construct for itself a refuge from an intolerable and otherwise inescapable reality. Bell’s fiction excites pity for those who live, as though walled up, in ruins of their own necessary construction. I admire The Collectors for the certainty of its prose and its unflinching observation of a most profound alienation—envying the first; fearing the second; and unhappily aware that artifice—no matter how splendid—is inadequate to ameliorate the despair.”

Norman Lock, author of A History of the Imagination

“Matt Bell’s lifesick pair, Langley and Homer, shell-shocked under a pile of newspapers, are disquieting, hilarious, and—in that strange way that makes Beckett’s and Kafka’s characters so urgent—entirely recognizable. Bell has written a beauty.”

Deb Olin Unferth, author of Vacation

The Collectors was the runner-up manuscript in the 2008 Caketrain Chapbook Competition, as judged by Brian Evenson.

About the Author

Matt Bell is the author of How They Were Found, Cataclysm Baby, and In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods. He is the also founding editor of The Collagist, a monthly online literary magazine.


The chapters “William Baker” and “Artie Matthews” were published in Wigleaf as “How They Were Found and Who They Were That Found Them” (2008). Text © 2009 Matt Bell. Cover image texture courtesy of Brandie Jenkins. “Table of Pneumaticks” from Cyclopaedia, or Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, Volume 2, 1728.