memory and loss

Litera Scripta Manet (The Written Word Endures)

     -Motto in painting on ceiling at Library of Congress
I hereby undertake not to remove from the Library, or to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document, or other object belonging to it or in its custody; not to bring into the Library or kindle therein any fire or flame, and not to smoke in the Library; and I promise to obey all rules of the Library.

     -The Bodleian Declaration

Oxford University’s Bodleian Library gift shop sells a metal plaque declaring “Litera Scripta Manet,” accompanied by a card that explains the motto is featured at the LoC and that it “perhaps comes from Horace.”

Before you can get a reader’s card at the Bodleian, you must recite and then sign a printed version of the Bodleian Declaration.

The two quotes highlight a paradox in attitudes toward our Western cultural heritage. On the one hand, we believe in the lasting power of the ideas contained in the most valuable documents archived in our libraries. On the other hand, we know that we must remain vigilant to protect the often quite fragile objects upon which the written word is preserved; every time a reader handles a letter, a book, a pamphlet, a will, a map, the object is one (often quite tiny, but sometimes not) step closer to oblivion. Ask any physicist: entropy is unavoidable. Librarians know this, of course, and the special collections in libraries are an attempt to keep the inevitable at bay. They are the place where abstract ideas concerning such things as art, history, and philosophy collide with the reality of the material world.

Every contact leaves a trace, but every work is mortal.

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i miss the comfort in being sad

Kurt Cobain and I were both born just outside of Seattle in January of early 1967. I worked on an entry early this morning that began with, “I want to tell you to just say no to the Cobain hagiography (Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Associated Press, Seattle Times, Launch Yahoo, New Musical Express).”

I wrote more, but I couldn’t figure out how to end it, so instead, I’m going to just tell you to go read this article on the reunion and current tour of the Pixies.

Okay, I’ll also include this part of what I was writing earlier: “In his WaPo piece, David Segal writes, ‘Kurt Cobain would detest all the re-eulogizing prompted by the 10th anniversary of his suicide.’ No he wouldn’t. Here, Segal participates in one of the shadiest elements of tending to the rock star ethos, something no respectable music journalist should do, in my opinion. Cobain was a rock star, and part of being a rock star is to express disdain for being a rock star. It’s cool not to want to be seen as cool. It should be the music journalist’s job to call rock stars out on this duplicity. Cobain was as involved in the fashioning of his own indie image as anyone. In Heavier than Heaven, Charles Cross explains that although Cobain told interviewers that the first concert he attended was Black Flag, he had actually seen Sammy Hagar previously.”

In his suicide note, Cobain quoted Neil Young, “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.” I wonder if his daughter would agree. I also wonder if Cobain knew this song by Young:

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