In presenting a thesis on the fetishistic engagement of the collector with artifacts of material culture, which is an almost exclusively bourgeois domain, Benjamin seems to reject a certain puritan ethos prevalent in Marxist thought, while at the same time introducing a sphere of material historicity removed from the fluid swiftness of capitalist practice. He is unique in celebrating the constructive, creative and even critical value of mass consumer culture, as distinct from Capitalism per se.
Not that they come alive in him; it is he who lives in them. Though my hometown of New Haven, Connecticut is by no means a backwater, and indeed as I got older I spent more and more time escaping home to New York and to Boston, at the time, visiting my cool older sister in California was still an exciting and novel opportunity to get away from my parents.
This is not, however, to discount the coolness of my other sister, also older, who lent me her ID to get my lip pierced when I visited her in the otherwise more mundane city of Providence, Rhode Island.
It was founded in by Peter D.
Though independent bookstores mean something different in a post-Amazon age, as far as we have come from the s this place maintains residual meanings based on what it has been. With its eclectic, often radical, selection of fiction and non, it is easily idealized, even now, as an ongoing site for those great literary and philosophical conversations.
So to me, at 17, City Lights was it. I was enamored with Kerouac, could recite from memory the famous lines from On the Road: One of the things I love most about City Lights is how it lives and breathes.
It sells contemporary fiction and critical theory. It sells the cutting edge of recent scholarship as well as the history of literary forms. It constructs the legacy of the Beat Generation as both more and less political, both more and less aesthetic than the original founders. During my visit, I bought a small pile of books—probably 4 or 5, maybe half a dozen—but my memory of what they were is hazy.
So, like Walter Benjamin, rather than the book being defined by what it says, by what is written inside, the book is defined for me by where it comes from and who I was when I bought it.
Traveling to San Francisco was no small feat, and undoubtedly part of the feat was convincing my parents to let me go in the first place. While other books have come and gone, this one has been packed and shelved, repacked and reshelved something like a dozen times.
It came with me from Connecticut to Philadelphia and followed me through 4 different apartments there. I like it for reasons unrelated to the words on the pages, the words written by Perec and translated by David Bellos.
It is its objecthood, and my intimate possession thereof wherein lies its meaning, wherein I live. Then, this month, at 29, I came back to visit my four year old niece and one year old nephew. Not everyone likes museums like this one. Here the whole collection is on display—things piled in display cases and photos plastered on walls—regardless of how well it makes any overarching argument or how convincingly it tells a coherent narrative.
Here there are few spectacular items. There are no original manuscripts or confidential correspondence; the artifacts on display did not, by and large, play a pivotal part in History with a capital H. Here descriptive labels sometimes ramble on, other times are absent altogether. Here display cases are mixed and matched, perhaps relics of abandoned department stores, perhaps leftovers from a dying museum.
But personally I like these museums best and I like them because of their apparent amateurism.
Indeed, in a Benjaminian sense, I like them because I can see the curator and the collector in the way he writes about his objects and, of course, in the objects themselves. Indeed these splintered narratives are, I think, more faithful to how we as individuals access the past than any coherent timeline can be, and thus I like seeing the historiographic and curatorial seams.
Burroughs enumerated and alphabetized as a booklist. Conrad, Melville, Joyce for Kerouac. Blake, Keats, Whitman for Ginsberg. But regardless of who is featured, the argument, a very Benjaminian argument, remains: There are first, second and third editions of Howl.
There are mass market paperbacks of The Dharma Bums. What did she want? We are, in other words, encouraged to unpack this library both in a Benjaminian sense and in the sense of unraveling meaning.University of Texas Press Unpacking: Walter Benjamin and His Library Author(s): Joseph D. Lewandowski UNPACKING: WALTER BENJAMIN AND HIS LIBRARY to write a brief and wonderful essay entitled "Unpacking My Library?
A Talk on Collecting." At that time Benjamin, having nearly two years. In the s, Walter Benjamin wrote an essay called “Unpacking My Library.” As the title suggests, it’s a meditation on books, but it’s not about books as works of literature or as pieces of writing.
Apr 30, · Walter Benjamin’s “Unpacking My Library” Illuminations: Essays and Reflections. Ed. Hannah Arendt. Schocken Books; New York, Pg Walter Benjamin belongs to a group of people who he feels is becoming extinct.
He is a true collector, more specifically a book collector. In his essay Unpacking My Library he takes a serious if not. Created Date: 1/19/ PM. In the s, Walter Benjamin wrote an essay called “Unpacking My Library.” As the title suggests, it’s a meditation on books, but it’s not about .
In , Walter Benjamin wrote a brief essay entitled "Unpacking My Library: A Talk about Book Collecting." In it, he narrates the experience of pulling the many volumes of his personal library out of the crates in which they had been inaccessibly stored for the previous two years.