Sunday, July 29, 2012

Wanna Buy Someone Else's Notes?

Here is an offer of "Handwritten Psychology Note cards 500 plus in metal file box 1970s." They are "Handwritten index cards, approximately 500 individual cards in a metal file box. These cards were the personal notes of a 1970's graduate student studying for a Ph.D in marriage and family counseling with an emphasis on systems theory and an interest in the life of the spirit. The notes are densely written, a few are typed but most are written in extremely small handwriting. I can read them, but it's work to decipher some of the words. The notes are categorized and organized according to this individual's method."

Do I want it?

Not really!

Pale Fire "Liberated"?

Nabokov describes a poem written on Index Cards by a certain John Shade in Pale Fire. This poem has now been published separately. In a review of the New York Times we find: "PALE FIRE: A Poem in Four Cantos by John Shade (Gingko Press, $35) is an almost ridiculously lovely package: the poem itself is printed in a small booklet, the note cards upon which Shade “wrote” the poem are recreated (complete with faux ink stains), and an accompanying critical text contains helpful essays from the Nabokov scholar Brian Boyd and the poetry critic R. S. Gwynn (who makes a smart case for Nabokov having used couplets partly as a response to Robert Lowell’s early work). If you’re a Nabokov devotee, this is comparable to getting a special edition of “Physical Graffiti” with a facsimile string from one of Jimmy Page’s custom violin bows inside."

The whole thing seems shady (sorry!) to me. See also here and here.

No further comment!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Valéry's Morning Exercises

Paul Valéry (y (1871-1945) was one of the great symbolist writers. He kept notebooks for most of his life. "Over the course of fifty years, Valéry would ultimately fill no fewer than 261 copybooks, with a total length of approximately 30,000 pages. From 1894 onwards, he got up at five o'clock every morning to dedicate himself to these mental morning exercises before he went to work. Every thought was to be written down as precisely as possible to give his mind a good workout: this was typical of Valéry, the most versatile bookworm of the century, but not necessarily a coherent thinker. His work is fragmentary, and only rarely does it follow through on any of its ideas."

They do not really constitute an intimate journal, but are a mass of
  • notes
  • sketches
  • diagrams
  • thoughts on every conceivable subject under the sun, from mathematics to prosody
  • transcript of conversations with Mallarmé and Gide to
  • prose poems
  • delicate little watercolours
  • thoughts the conservation of energy and its relation to mental activity.
Over the years, he tried many systems of classification for these entries.

For more information, see here and here, for instance.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Roland Barthes' Mourning Diary

I picked up recently a remaindered copy of Roland Barthes, Mourning Diary (New York: Hill and Wang, 2009). It is a translation of Journal de deuil, a publication of the paper slips on which Barthes noted thoughts he had in connection with his mother's death between October 25, 1977 and October 1978 (as well as some other notes about his mother). The translator notes that what is published "is in fact a diary only in a rather desperate sense: the writer kept a stack of quartered typing paper on his desk, and from the day of his mother's death until nearly his own, while he was producing his last best books, he would scribble one or another or sometimes several aphoristic losses as a sort of diagnostic test, a questioning of torment, a preparation for the days task: a companion to the ultimate writings of Roland Barthes" (259).

Barthes was in the habit of writing such slips. The quartered typing pages correspond to the format of DIN A 4 (the DIN format was introduced in France in 1967). It's interesting that he used quartered typing pages, as he could have bought card stock.

It appears that the title "Mourning Diary" is not from Barthes. Whether these notes to himself deserved publication is a different question.

What does one make of an entry like this: "—The courage of discretion —It is courageous not to be courageous"? The claim that something is identical with the very lack of itself is just false. (No interesting dialectical move here!) Many of the notes are just sad or wallowing in self-pity. I very much doubt Barthes would have agreed to the publication of these raw notes!

Still, the way he took these is interesting for someone interested in note-taking.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Smallest Federated Wiki

There is an interesting post on Wired about Ward Cunningham's Smallest Federated Wiki. There is a more informative site by Cunningham himself.

The github site is here.