The Golden Flea
by Michael Rips
Books > Criticism
A lyrical and enchanting memoir set among the stalls of New York’s legendary Chelsea flea market.
Michael Rips is not a collector. The only things he holds onto are books and his diaries. But then he moves into the Chelsea Hotel with his wife and young daughter and discovers the Chelsea flea. A famous secondhand market haunted by those hunting for lost treasures, the flea was an integral part of Manhattan for decades, occupying several blocks and an old garage on the west side of the city.
It’s not long before Rips is a regular. In turn, the vendors educate him on the items they sell, from trinkets and vintage clothes to rare books, West African boli, and Old Master paintings. As his fascination turns to obsession – and comes to focus on a mysterious painting of a woman – Rips must consider what gives an object value, and what drives his compulsion to collect.
In richly evocative and stylish prose, The Golden Flea paints a portrait of a curious world that is itself a lost treasure.
‘A beautiful memoir.’ —Wall Street Journal
‘Captures the singular vocational pull of the collector . . . The Golden Flea chronicles both the author’s lifelong pursuit of oddities and the disappearance of New York’s flea subculture into the anecdotal past.’ — The Paris Review
‘An extraordinary portrait of a New York filled with unlikely treasures, human and material. Michael Rips is a magician of seeing, and only he could have come up with this enchanted construction.’ – Joseph O’Neill, author of Netherland
‘Michael Rips writes with a unique combination of sly humour, close observation, and sympathy.’ – David Salle, author of How to See