Fiction by Doon Arbus
Doon Arbus’s The Caretaker takes no prisoners as it explores the perils of devotion and the potentially lethal charisma of things. Following the death of an eccentric collector—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 long been his fervent admirer. This peculiar institution (the Society for the Preservation of the Legacy of Dr. Charles Alexander Morgan) 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 wry and haunting manner, at once obsessive and matter-of-fact. The Caretaker, like the interplanetary crystal that is one of the museum’s treasures, is rare, glistening, and of a compacted inwardness.
Kafka or Henry James 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.