Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Walter Benjamin on collectors

Walter Benjamin, “Unpacking My Library: A Talk about Book Collecting,” in Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken Books, 1968).

I read this passage with a jolt of recognition. This post is for all who read likewise.

Other Walter Benjamin posts
“Avoid haphazard writing materials”
Metaphors for writing
On readers and writers

comments: 4

Fresca said...

And it need not be so elevated a pursuit either.

I stopped taking toiletries on trips abroad because it's so much fun to look for them there. Or it was, before everything became more or less the same brands.
In Malaysia in the late 1980s, I found a toothpaste called Darkie, showing a black man with a big white grin.
I see that in 1990, the name was changed to Darlie.

"How many cities have revealed themselves to me in the marches I took in pursuit of stuffed animals."

Michael Leddy said...

Yes, or pencils, notebooks, paper clips (if you’re Ernie’s Bert), whatever works.

Marzek said...

Interesting! -- I never thought of this as a strategy for exploring a city, but in retrospect, I realize that I've done so. (On a trip to Vancouver last year, a trip to a bookstore took me to a part of the city I might not otherwise have seen).
A plus might be -- I'm generalizing here -- that bookstores/stationers tend to occupy more marginal / older parts of a city, hanging on as the neighborhood has changed.
An aside: William S. Burroughs, in one of his essays from the 60-70s, suggests "color walks" as a method of exploration. You select a particular color and look for it. This allows you to pick up on details you would otherwise miss (from personal example, a potted geranium on a third-storey window ledge). A great thing about this practice is that it allows you to "travel" in your own neighborhood. Streets that may seem overfamiliar can be viewed through a fresh lens, so to speak.

Michael Leddy said...

I like that Burroughs idea for focusing attention. (I used to be quite up on Burroughs — critical writing, even met him, a long way back.) I find that one of the great pleasures of taking more or less the same long walk every day is seeing the changes, esp. now in fall. Easier to notice things without buds in the ears.