By Michelle King

(Credit: Image from Flickr user Barta IV; used with Creative Commons license)

For most writers, the word “collection” is used to describe their latest book of short stories or poems. However, there are some authors who engage in the kind of collecting more commonly associated with fine art or, say, Pokémon cards.

Why do these writers’ collections fascinate us? Well, we like to think of it as the literary equivalent of “Stars — They’re Just Like Us!” More often than not, we imagine acclaimed authors tucked away for months at a time, subsisting on coffee and typing away. The pedestrian and habitual act of collecting is a welcome reminder of their human quirks.

And what quirks they are! These are the grand, obscure and strange collections of seven authors:

1. Edward Gorey’s Fur Coats

E is for Edward Gorey who loved his fur coats. Not only did Gorey like to have his characters wearing elaborate fur coats, he too liked to be draped in mink. The children’s lit author owned over 21 fur coats, which he was known for wearing with Converse sneakers.

In the late ‘80s, Gorey became close to a few raccoons that were living near his home (as you do) and began to feel a great deal of guilt about all that fur he owned. Upon his death, he gave his entire estate to the welfare of animals, and the coats were auctioned off in 2011.

(Credit: Image from Wikimedia Commons user Ceridwen; used with Creative Commons license)

2. China Miéville’s Role-Playing Game Bestiaries

Science fiction author China Miéville spent his teenage years playing Dungeons and Dragons, which, let’s face it, is not atypical of a future sci fi/comic book author who grew up in the ‘80s. Since then, Miéville has outgrown D&D, but he still collects role-playing game bestiaries. He says he “find[s] that kind of fascination with the creation of the monstrous tremendously inspiring.” The question of “Why collect?” can be difficult to answer, but for inspiration seems like a pretty good answer.

3. Amy Sedaris’s Plastic Meats and Books About Physical Abnormalities

Amy Sedaris has a particularly unique collection: plastic meats. The writer and actress says that her affinity for plastic turkeys and hot dogs started by accident. She tells The Believer, “When I saw the first piece, I just fell in love with it and had to have it. Ever since then, I’ve kept my eyes open for more meat. … It’s very rare that you come across a quality synthetic ham for sale.”

In addition to inedible food, Sedaris collects items “about physical abnormalities” along with her brother and fellow writer David Sedaris; the two go to a store in New York that sells antique skin-disorder books. So, you know, just an average, run-of-the-mill collection.

4. Jeffrey Archer’s Art

British novelist Jeffrey Archer describes his love of art as being “close to manic,” so it makes sense that he would have gathered an impressive and extensive collection of paintings, sculptures and more over his lifetime. At its peak, Archer’s collection included 99 pieces from Monet, Warhol and Rodin, but he auctioned a substantial chunk in 2011, saying that he simply didn’t have room for all of it.

5. Larry McMurtry’s Books

Larry McMurty amassed over 450,000 books in his used and rare book collection, but at 76, the American author decided to sell 300,000 volumes. The auction took place in 2013 over two days and included books labeled “the McMurty 101,” works which the writer considered special for personal reasons. One of the highest selling items was a collection of erotica by various authors including Henry Miller and Anais Nin, which sold for $2,750. Sure, it’s a lot of money, but can you really put a price on highbrow smut?

6. Lao She’s Art

Chinese novelist Lao She’s private art collection sold for $27 million in 2013 and included work from famed Chinese artists Huang Binhong, Wu Changshuo, Fu Baoshi and Yu Fei’an. Every single painting that was on sale was sold, a result of the quality of the collection and the deep affinity for She. The writer drowned himself in Beijing in 1966 and has been a beloved cultural icon ever since. Proceeds of the sale went to a range of art and writing institutions.

(Credit: Image from Wikimedia Commons user MDCarchives; used with Creative Commons license)

7. Jerzy Kosiński’s Dictionaries

It’s one thing to collect books, but the late novelist Jerzy Kosiński collected dictionaries. When asked by The Paris Review about why he choose to leave the Soviet bloc for the United States, Kosiński said, “I was not leaving for any specific place. Attempting to leave Eastern Europe, I had three priorities on my list, in alphabetical order as well as in the order of my intent: Argentina, Brazil, and the United States, all large multiethnic societies where I assumed I could find anonymity. I remember that first I carefully began collecting Spanish and Portuguese dictionaries. Only much later, English and American ones.”

Which of these collections would you like to have as your own? Know of any other authors with noteworthy collections? Got an odd or impressive collection yourself? Tell us all about it in the comments below!

Michelle King grew up in South Florida and now lives in Brooklyn. Her contributions have appeared on BULLETT, Refinery29, xoJane and The Huffington Post. Harriet M. Welsch is still her role model and probably always will be.

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