( The land has a geo logic which we seldom encounter directly but which imprints us from birth, a labyrinthine twist which often seems to be embodied only much later. The twisting but flattened gyre of the Mississippi River has been a spine for millennia affecting a genea-logic. Is the deformed iron grate reforming or deforming? Coming or going back to its urform?)
(Still trying to kick this blog to life…there will be a third start.)
“You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood, back home to romantic love, back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame, back home to exile, to escape to Europe and some foreign land, back home to lyricism, to singing just for singing’s sake, back home to aestheticism, to one’s youthful idea of ‘the artist’ and the all-sufficiency of ‘art’ and ‘beauty’ and ‘love,’ back home to the ivory tower, back home to places in the country, to the cottage in Bermude, away from all the strife and conflict of the world, back home to the father you have lost and have been looking for, back home to someone who can help you, save you, ease the burden for you, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time–back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”
― Thomas Wolfe
The idea that we can never go home again must be one of the most quoted in all of literature, especially when thinking about all the allied ideas around melancholia, homesickness and so on. But with all due regard to the acuteness of Thomas Wolfe’s observation, it also seems simultaneously true, and in a sense just as real as the enumeration above, that we can never really leave home either. (I mean, when it comes right down to it isn’t that Kant’s legacy?) The idea of being modern has always had as it’s kernal the idea of ‘leave-taking’ and of subsequent rootlessness, and that the forced march of history away from the savannahs and grass lands of humanity’s birth places is all for the good leasing in some way, an uncanny way ‘forward’: Progress!!. Doesn’t it feel right to say that the more gone we feel, the more progressive we must be? To even raise concerns about the rightness of such is to set off cultural alarums and klaxons. From those of us in the West, all we do is gaze in wonderment as the sheer number of (forced) migrations now taking place around the world. But, I would contend, that pain of movement is of the very essence of being modern.
Oh, ok I suspect you were expecting more personal testimonies of / about the Cheathams, Robert, Sloane and Rowan, move back to Mississippi. Well, that is coming but you know me, I can’t do anything without massaging it thought-wise. That must also be part of my personal dealing with home (and Home).
It would be foolish to say that I don’t have a certain amount of trepidation with the move. Given Mississippi’s reputation as the last on all scales, I have had to re-organize my organum regarding the Great and Sovereign State of Mississippi.
“Every passion borders on the chaos of memories. More than that: the chance, the fate, that suffuse the past before me are conspicuously present in the accustomed confusion of these books. For what else is this collection but a disorder to which habit has accommodated itself to such an extent that it can appear as order?”
Walter Benjamin – Unpacking My Library
I feel a sort of necessary paralysis in packing my library. I feel as if I am undergoing an archeological excavation. A few of these books, tattered and/or yellowed pages, I have kept from childhood. A yellowed but intact copy from 1962 of my first copy of the science fiction magazine Analog, circa 1962. A largely intact paperback of the early space program and its possibilities; I even remember the drugstore in MS where I bought it as a kid. A falling-apart paperback by Arthur C. Clarke on incredible things that may await us in the future. At the time I was more or less completely enthralled by the ecstatic spaces of science fiction, the future was so bright I had to wear shades, as the song went.
Walter Benjamin’s essay dealt as much, or more, with the collector rather than the collection. I never had any idea of building a collection then or even, really, much later. In fact many of my books never made it though the travails of time and its disruptions. Several of Nietzsche’s way-beyond-tattered books of essays—most recently Beyond Good and Evil—failed to make the passage. But even undergoing the process of triage, I find it very difficult to let books go. I still regret letting my collection of science fiction novels go. It comprised an entire four by eight foot bookshelf. I’m still not entirely sure where they all went. Truly, I have no clear idea of what happened to them all.
And of course, folks move around so much now, the baggage of extensive collections (or assemblages) of books is the last thing people want to lug around on their current nomadism.
I’m not entirely happy with the idea of being a collector. In such a case the idea of a collection begins to take up more of the mental space than those items that compose it. And there is also no end to collecting once you embark on such. Disturbing I guess in that it seems to say completeness doesn’t exist as long as there is (always) one more piece of the puzzle to gather, one more datum to make a dossier (of evidence? Of what then??!).
Benjamin again: “The most profound enchantment for the collector is the locking of individual items within a magic circle in which they are fixed as the thrill of acquisition passes over them.” And I have to say that it is true for me that only when I have a copy of a book and have lived with it for a while do I feel like I in any way ‘know’ it. Yes, I guess a little bit of totemism leavened with fetishism there.
And although I never really thought I was collecting books. I WAS a collector of record albums and had something like 2500 of them. But, symptomatically perhaps, they are all gone, sold off bit by bit in a previous life. And besides they were as heavy as hell to haul around.
And neither book nor record now has any resale value other than to a collector and only under certain circumstances of limited edition, first edition, etc. Digitality has destroyed the middle man in one way and opened it up in another, though the ability to sell via Amazon, etc.
At any rate, a functioning library has always been a part of the concept home.