For centuries, closets have enabled the collection, preservation, and suppression of missives and media-machines, files and folios. But they are more than that. Behind the doors, closets are also active, generative spaces where media are made, where imaginaries and anxieties are formulated, where knowledges and subjectivities are born and transformed.
“Wee do call the most secret place in the house appropriate vnto our owne priuate studies, and wherein wee repose and deliberate by deepe consideration of all our waightiest affaires, a Closet,” wrote Angel Day, the original English secretary, in 1592. The closets of Early Modern Europe were private studies, media cabinets, epistemological architectures. In a private log, in 1556, Sir William Moore recorded the contents of his closet: “various maps, a writing slate, a perpetual calendar, a calculating board and a purse of counters, an ink stand, coffers, sets of weights and balances, a globe, scissors, seals, compasses, pens, a hammer, a penknife, a foot-rule, and a vast selection of texts in English, French, Italian, and Latin,” much of which was likely kept under lock and key.
We have made such a mess of the world in the rest of our lives that preserving a portion of nature with our deaths seems like small recompense. Classical mythology had Charon leading the dead across the River Styx and a three-headed dog named Cerberus guarding the entrance to the underworld. I find comfort instead in the idea of having Mole, Mr. Toad and the rest as companions on our travels into the darkness of the Wildwood.
Matthew Klam, the author of the short-story collection “Sam the Cat,” has a new novel—his first—called “Who Is Rich?” that, among other things, is a gem within the canon of infidelity literature. The narrator is a lightly washed-up cartoonist named Rich Fischer who teaches at a motley arts conference in New England. Because he is as waffly and narcissistic as anyone you might expect to find at that sort of venue—and because his best material has always been autobiographical—Fischer is constantly thinking about how he might impose an artistic narrative on the affair that he has come to the weeklong conference to carry out.