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November 21, 2007


more mad

i kinda like the new cover but i understand your reservations. it's got a sort of catch me if you can thing going on.
your take on the benjamin reminds me of my librarian dilemma trying to make room for new works and weed down older collections of awesome books from the turn of the century. they are not all gems but for the most part to be published at all meant something. the table of contents with all of their roman numerals and sub-headings is better reading than some of the new things we have to buy...


I think there is what Gillian Rose used to call a Broken Middle here - well, not really broken (and I never got much from her writing in truth), just an absent middle. There are editions of Illuminations between the two pictured above !! The yellow one is way old - and to be honest too old for me. It doesn't have the charm of a lovely old Penguin orange / white Catcher in the Rye or something - it's kind of *dated*. The new one - well, I don't mind the new one, though I've only seen it here (but maybe in future all the kids will be touting it?). Given an entirely blank slate to choose, I might even choose the new one. But the missing middle, anyway: - there was the black Fontana edition with the same picture, from about 1973, which was always kind of canonical for me (though only a dusty little paperback). There was the 1992 re-paginated Fontana edition which slightly irritated me cos all the pages were new etc - with the pic blown up big on the front - the one that is c. three feet from me now, in fact. And there is the one that my English tutor lent me so many moons ago - with a kind of abstract blue / green design on the cover - actually *that* was kind of canonical too: it was the first time I ever read the Theses on the Philosophy of History. I brought the book back and said I hadn't really been able to use it, and he said: 'he's a very *allusive* writer, isn't he?'.

So all I'm saying is, you don't have to choose between just the two options ! - readers' lives will have been inflected by god knows how many others.


oh but see, it's unfair! the UK editions of just about everything have less garish covers. this pimlico edition and the previous fontana one that you mentioned are both only available in the UK (unless you want to pay the extra shipping to have it sent here, which i'm often tempted to do).

the super-old green/blue cover is my favorite aesthetically, but i'm afraid of destroying my only copy of it that it never leaves the benjamin shelf in my living room. (please, no laughing.)


fontana link not working for some reason, but i assume i know what it looks like. pimlico one - i'm not sure. yellow / black scheme, WB standing up pic - fairly cool and all, but how is that more true to WB than the city-map edition you amivalently decry above? actually, i think the impersonality of the latter might make it preferable for me.

i'm glad to hear that the old blue / green one wasn't quite as esoteric as i thought, but i haven't seen it in literally 15 years - can anyone remind me what it looks like?


(the fontana link should work now.)

my problem with the new cover is that while it's impersonal, it's also freakishly hip. you can't tell from the image, but the cover is slightly textured -- i don't remember if the white lines (roads) are raised or impressed, but the cover is just slightly three dimensional. it's just an entirely different experience of benjamin than i'm used to. the way the text is all skewed, all off-kilter ... i don't know -- it just makes the books feel like inconsequential pop.

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  • If Ayn Rand and Walter Benjamin got in a cage fight and then made up over foie gras, single malt scotch and indie pop, you'd have the delightful adventures of "That Was Probably Awkward." Plus or minus the single malt and foie gras, depending on the week's finances. But always the indie pop. Sad, stirring indie pop. And a decent happy hour.

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