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Owls Head 
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Product Details 
224 pages 
Quantuck Lane Press (W.W. Norton & Company) 
Published 2003 
From Publishers Weekly 
Maine resident William Buckminster may be a mere junk dealer to some, but to photographer Purcell, he is a merchant-historian overseeing "vestiges from two hundred years of history" (e.g., skates and skillets, clocks without hands, 78 rpm records from the early 1900s, a miniature bed of nails, an iron lung, a corpse-like rubber baby doll leaking foam, a circular staircase, a bicycle planted up to the handle bars, a child's coffin, a fisherman's lantern, "the earliest existing brass foundry in the entire country"). Where another eye might see a trash heap, or, more generously, an unruly second-hand shop, Purcell finds "a garden of collective memories." At heart, this is a travel book, a meandering journey through "the vastness, disorder, and gentle melancholy" of Buckminster's 11 acres of sundry mutable matter, following Purcell from her first stumble upon it through two decades as she evolves from buyer to friend and as her studio grows to resemble a more composed version of Buckminster's collection. Reading Purcell is a bit like digging in Buckminster's mountains of stuff; readers come upon bits of his life, including his pool game, bits of genealogy and fragments of regional history. The end notes, peppered with about 40 photographs, were designed for scavengers as well; there's no telling what readers will find, whimsy or weight. Purcell is an acquired taste, rather like her own taste for old books ("Victorian paper tastes dry-better, actually, than the paper used in newer books"). Still, the book haunts; "perhaps," as Purcell observes, "a tea pot that holds no water is deeper than you think." 
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.  
Agni 58, Sven Birkerts, 1 October 2003 
Part of the pleasure of [Purcell's] photographs is in recognizing how...material decay can quicken our awareness of the immaterial.  
Book Description 
A derelict antiques and scrap metal business in Owls Head, Maine, is the setting of this multi-layered word-portrait of its owner, William Buck-minster, proprietor of an extraordinary collection of discarded and decaying items, no-longer-functioning remnants of previous lives. Buckminster's world, which includes both his vaunted talents in the local pool halls and his sure knowledge of the seemingly endless number of fascinating objects from his vast supply, are inspiration for Purcell's carefully crafted meditation on collecting and entropy, and the signals both send to those of us willing to pay attention. 34 duotone footnote photographs.
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