Thanksgiving Is Ruined

The Personal is Political. The Political is Personal.

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November 07, 2011
What was his secret?

How exactly did W. Benjamin organize the countless citations from myriad sources mosaicked into his Arcades Project masterpiece?

TiR wonders about the intricate system of dozens of icons that he invented and meticulously inscribed on bookmarks/cards, multiples of which are shown in a perceptive and thorough post on the Le Divan Fumoir Bohémien blog, here.

The cards are among the objects on display in an extensive, current exhibition of WB's personal items.
(lengthy and fascinating illustrated press kit here) (.pdf)

Beyond the bookmarks, the above-linked blog post does an admirable job of contextualizing how the guy's evident love of the material instruments of writing in general -- of pens, pencils, inks, the texture of paper. binding materials-- and sense of play and yearning found outlet in methods such as note card systems that combined assemblage / construction game and juxtaposition of fragments, to discover new conceptual associations.

[see also Bernd Witte, herein:
"[The book is] basically made up of a myriad of quotes and comments jotted down on index cards and arranged according to a colored filing system. The cards allowed Benjamin to mix and mingle ideas, randomly joining them into singular and startling contexts."]

Moreover, on for the first time viewing WB's multihued, hieroglyphic squiggles, boxes, circles, lozenges and cross hair markings, one immediately realizes how many times WB must have had to interrupt himself and change or juggle pencils/pens, to draw the many icons in their various bright colors, as he read. An annoyance for him? On the contrary: Rather, we above all realize, apart from how deep down his visual thinking went, how much fun he must have been having, as he sat at the BnF, scanned and transcribed texts, and drew.

In the same post: The WB letters excerpted contain (TiR is pretty sure) the most heartbreakingly affectionate language we have ever read about (blank) notebooks.