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The Collector Collector

Tibor Fischer

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Title: The Collector Collector
Author: Tibor Fischer
Genre: Novel
Written: 1997
Length: 221 pages
Availability: The Collector Collector - US
The Collector Collector - UK
The Collector Collector - Canada
Die Voyeurin - Deutschland
Il collezionista - Italia
El coleccionista de coleccionistas - España

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Our Assessment:

B : amusing idea, well done in part (and well written), but not enough of a story

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Antioch Review . Spring/1998 Gerda Oldham
The Guardian A 23/5/1998 Nicholas Lezard
Literary Review A+ 3/1997 David Profumo
The New Leader C- 2/6/1997 Carole Angier
New Statesman A- 18/4/1997 Kathy Emck
The NY Times Book Rev. B+ 13/7/1997 Sarah Ferguson
People . 7/7/1997 Adam Begley
Salon B- 6/5/1997 Dwight Garner
The Spectator A 15/3/1997 Ra Page
TLS B- 7/3/1997 Phil Baker

  Review Consensus:

  No true consensus. Admiration for Fischer's wit and wordplay (though some found it overdone) and imagination, some (but not all) disappointed in what is perceived as a lack of a real story behind it all.

  From the Reviews:
  • "Fischer's unusual and amusing novel will give the reader a few laughs." - Gerda Oldham, The Antioch Review

  • "Fischer goes very much out of his way to make every story in the book outrageously unusual (there are about a hundred stories here; a short attention span is no excuse not to read the novel) -- in fact, many of the words are unusual, of Fischer's own making." - Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian

  • "Deft, daft and devilishly entertaining (.....) The texture of (Fischer's) prose makes for a deliciously slow read; one savours the flicker of allusion, the salty humour, the tug of the sardonic. Now droogish, now antique, his lingo ranges from Firbankian dialogue to the frankly macaronic. Alliterative cascades and verbal farragoes are much in evidence. The Collector Collector is as slender and exhausting as a supermodel." - David Profumo, Literary Review

  • "The Collector Collector shows traces of the genuine literary gift that made Under the Frog so promising. It is, at first, funny and clever. But it is empty. It is like a story-telling machine without a story, spinning through its motions faster and faster, about less and less, until it drives you insane. Well, it drove me insane. Perhaps you will feel differently." - Carole Angier, The New Leader

  • "(Fischer) can raise bellylaughs you're embarrassed to have (but relieved to get rid of) and get pathos out of unlikely material. Nevertheless, this is a slight work; a fable made longer by interpolating it with more mini-fables (...). It may not have much stayingpower but it certainly is fun. An aimably potty pot boiler." - Kathy Emck, New Statesman

  • ""Oh, no," you're thinking, "not another talking-bowl book." Well, it's a fair bet you've never encountered a household object like this one. (...) What follows is a preposterous comic romp filled with kinky sex, cold-blooded hired killers, jealousy and betrayal, all punctuated by a peculiar set of recurring motifs, including frozen iguanas and a particularly stubborn jar of pickled beetroot. (Don't ask.)" - Sarah Ferguson, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Lively entertainment, a dizzy comedy with a surrealist twist." - Adam Begley, People

  • "Tibor Fischer is a remarkable stylist; nearly every sentence here is spit-shined until it sparkles. The problem is that you never really care much about these characters, or about what happens to them. In the end, even that talking bowl begins to seem like a bit of a crock." - Dwight Garner, Salon

  • "Only in the denouement can we enjoy the narrator's vast unifying vision, plaiting together coincidences aeons apart. Without compromising his objective fatalism, Fischer has produced a dazzling alternative to the more popular narcissistic confessional: a tale that convinces both narrator and reader that there is still room for surprise." - Ra Page, The Spectator

  • "Stories come thick and fast, with a Rabelaisian improbability. (...) More noticeable than the story-telling, though, is the style. Managing to be sloppy and mannered at the same time, it is a melange of striving word-play, odd diction and tic-like running jokes." - Phil Baker, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The collector collector of the title is a bowl -- collected, over the centuries, by many collectors and others, as well as having suffered any number of indignities (and getting broken on occasion). It has been through pretty much everything a piece of pottery can go through -- and it remembers it all, having become a repository of almost all human history. The bowl can also communicate with those that touch it, reading their memories and imparting wisdom.
       At the beginning of the book the bowl comes into the hands of Rosa, an expert appraiser who is called upon to appraise the bowl and holds onto it rather longer than she should. Rosa's household also gets another long-term guest in Nikki, who winds up stealing pretty much anything she can from Rosa, as well as bedding many men there. The silent bowl sees through both women (and all others it comes in contact with), but stands aside, basically an observer.
       The bowl develops a relationship of sorts with the lonely Rosa, revealing stories to her as she reveals her own. Fischer heaps on the absurdities, from history as well as from the world the bowl currently inhabits. The desperate Rosa, looking for advice to improve her love life goes to (too) great extremes. Nikki nicks and pawns the bowl. A lot of action for a piece of pottery.
       There's a fair amount of fun here, especially in the character of the bowl, who has really been through it all. Fischer also gives him an amusing, playful voice. Entertaining reading, much of it.
       Unfortunately the story -- what there is of one -- doesn't come together. (The many small stories included are enjoyable diversions, but they do not add up to a grand whole either.) Fischer has a good idea, and then seems to have no idea where to go with it. Fischer's writing is a pleasure to read, but there is some disappointment in the story not really going anywhere. The wry asides, the clever wordplay, the wildly imagined occurrences amuse, but don't quite sustain the whole book.
       It is still a fine novel, but it doesn't compare to his previous work.

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The Collector Collector: Reviews: Tibor Fischer: Other Books by Tibor Fischer under Review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Contemporary British fiction at the complete review

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About the Author:

       Born in 1959 British author Tibor Fischer's first book, Under the Frog won the Betty Trask Award and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

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