Overweening Generalist

Monday, July 21, 2014

On Archives: Personal and Public; Powerful and Perilous

"One's file, you know, is never quite complete; a case is never really closed, even after a century, when all the participants are dead." - Graham Greene, The Third Man

I've just finished reading a piece about how Stanley Kubrick amassed a personal archive - now housed in a climate-controlled wing of the University of Arts London - but intrepid journalist Jon Ronson somehow managed to peruse the extremely well-labeled and organized boxes upon boxes when they were still at Childwick Green, where Kubrick had lived in a rambling house in which Ronson had to drive past at least three electric gates to get to.

"There are boxes everywhere - shelves of boxes in the stable block, rooms full of boxes in the main house. In the fields, where racehorses once stood and grazed, are half a dozen Portakabins, each packed with boxes. I notice that many of the boxes are sealed. Some have, in fact, remained unopened for decades." There are letters to and from Nabokov. There are fan letters from all over the world, filed by city of origin. There's an entire room devoted to Napoleon, with seemingly every book ever written about him, and 25,000 3x5 library cards filled with notes on Napoleon compiled by Kubrick and some assistants.

About the Napoleon note cards:

"How long did it take?" I ask.

"Years," says Tony. "The late sixties."

The Kubrick Napoleon film was never made. He ended up making A Clockwork Orange instead. (Napoleon will show up later, below, in the case of Giordano Bruno.)

It's a typically fine journalistic piece by Ronson, and it fed into my lifelong fascination with personal archives, and what they mean, or might mean, both to the collector and to others. To State power.
(see Lost At Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries, pp.149-172, "Stanley Kubrick's Boxes")

Nowadays famous writers see bidding wars for their Nachlass, and it's made some writers ponder what their lives would be like once they sold their personal archives to an institution. Does it make you act "nicer" in all your emails? (The deal is: you get a sizeable sum, but must keep every scrap of writing from then on for the Institution.) What about love letters or writing that might hurt someone you love? How about what one might find embarrassing? If you opened a separate, secret email account, you are cheating the Institution and violating your agreement. You think to yourself, "Damn them! I have a life. And what sort of creep would want to go over my grocery lists?" Aye, but the Institution is backing you now; it's in their interests to play up how great you are...

Most of us who keep files about subjects we're interested in, or have built small personal libraries will not have to worry about this. Sometimes accidents happen. I remember when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's house in the hills of Los Angeles burnt down. He had built a famously large jazz record collection: all gone. He also lost priceless Korans, Asian and Middle Eastern rugs. A gentle giant of intellectual bend and perhaps the greatest NBA player ever, he always felt misunderstood and that fans loved him for helping the Lakers win games, but they thought he was a freak. The story of his house was all over the news, and for years afterwards strangers came up to him to give him rare jazz albums, which surprised him and altered his emotional assumptions about some "fans."

But Kareem's lost archives couldn't represent a threat to the State or other vested interests.

Some Countercultural Losses
I'd become aware of Terence McKenna's stupendously cool book collection. He seemed to be interested in everything that I was, but he knew more and could talk about what he knew in a way I could never dream. I thought how great it would be to meet him and be allowed to go through his library. But an accident happened at a Quizno's sandwich shop in Monterey, California, and all his rare books and personal notes were burned.

Aldous Huxley's incredible book collection, his letters, notes...all burned in the famous 1961 Bel-Air fire near Los Angeles. I've read various versions of this. Seared into memory: local TV news people were on the scene and found the Famous Man and asked him how he felt. Aldous said he felt "remarkably clean." I've yet to see if anyone had catalogued what was lost; I doubt if there was even a decent bibliography of what he'd had. Somewhat oddly, Huxley had published a piece in Vogue in 1947: "If My Library Burned Tonight." A passage: "To enter the shell of a well-loved room and to find it empty except for a thick carpet of ashes that were once one's favorite literature - the very thought of it is depressing."

Dr. Andrew Weil, involved with Dr. Timothy Leary at Harvard, lost a large collection of "books, records, papers and other items" in the flooding of his Arizona house in 2006.

Peter Dale Scott, UC Berkeley professor emeritus, poet and originator of the concept of "deep politics," which I take to be conspiracy research by people with PhDs or people who are intellectuals of some sort who question power, had all his books and notes and research burned in the famous 1991 Berkeley-Oakland Hills fire:

Now my best files from two decades
are ashes on a hillside.
-Minding The Darkness p.15

I can feel no loss
that my best political files
have all burned
if their message is too complex
even for close Harvard-educated
friends with PhDs
Minding, p.8

In 1990 Genesis P-Orridge was in Kathmandu when right wing xtians raided his house in England and stole two tons of his personal belongings, convinced he was one of Satan's great minions and out to harm children, etc. Of course Genesis is something of a magickian and musician, and very weird and very intelligent, but would never harm anyone. The police and the yellow British press had a field day with this supposed satanic cult leader. As Genesis told Richard Metzger:

And it was a Right Wing, Christian lawyer who accessed the illegal files. But they never printed an apology, they never gave me back my archive, and in that archive are many hours of Brion Gysin being interviewed, talking about his notebooks, showing things, paintings, drawings, explaining all kinds of incredible things. He's dead now. That's gone. There was a movie that Derek Jarman made when we brought William Burroughs to London. Derek filmed William all the time, went around with me and filmed everything. There was only one print of that movie and it's gone. There are Throbbing Gristle concerts that there were only one master of, gone. Just incredible stuff. All the photo albums of the children, growing up, gone. A stuffed dolphin toy, gone. The girls' Carebears videos, gone...I mean it's just incredible and it's still missing. The department of Scotland Yard was disbanded not long after, two of the detectives died within a year and now it's just impossible to find anyone who says they know anything about where everything is. Of course, we were never charged with anything, because we hadn't done anything. - see pp. 162-166 of Disinformation: The Interviews, R. Metzger. Genesis has a lot to say about personal archives.

Ed Sanders - poet-historian, disciple of Charles Olson and one of my favorite living archivists - famously did exhaustive research on the Manson murders, attending the trials, etc. He interviewed E.J. Gold, who was calling himself Morloch the Warlock in Los Angeles, August, 1970. A note from Sanders on E.J. Gold: "He speaks well, although too didactically. He is wonderful." Anyway, Gold told Sanders that some weirdos at a commune in Indio, California, where a 6 year old boy had burned down a house that "destroyed priceless unpublished Crowley manuscripts that the commune had ripped off from Israel Regardie, a well-known publisher, occultist, and Crowley scholar. He said that his group was recently robbed; among the magical addiddimenta ripped off was a polished copper mirror once belonging to Aleister Crowley." - p. 409, The Family

A word about this last: E.J. Gold was something of a prankster and may have taken Sanders for a ride here. Does anyone know more about this supposedly missing Crowleyania?

Take a gander: HERE's a Wiki for famous destroyed libraries, some done in the name of "cultural cleansing." As a pre-teen holed up in a library, I first read about deliberate burning of libraries in H.G. Wells's Outline of History, which I read all the way through three times before age 20. The case was the first one mentioned in the chart in the linked Wiki page:

While Alexander was overrunning Western Asia, China, under the last priest-emperors of the Chow Dynasty, was sinking into a state of great disorder. Each province clung to its separate nationality and traditions, and the Huns spread from province to province. The King of T'sin (who lived about eighty years before Alexander the Great), impressed by the mischief tradition was doing in the land, resolved to destroy the entire Chinese literature, and his son, Shi-Hwang-ti, the "first universal Emperor," made a strenuous attempt to seek out and destroy the existing classics. They vanished while he ruled, and he ruled without tradition, and welded China into a unity that endured for some centuries; but when he had passed, the hidden books crept in again. - p.182 of volume 1 in the 2-volume set.

A more recent take is HERE.

In the Afterlife, I imagine Plato coming up to the Emperor, now known in the West as "Qin Shi Huang," and saying, "Jeez man! I thought maybe I had some extreme ideas about controlling thought in my Republic, but you? You didn't even blink an eye, did you?"

These book-burners and book-haters and knowledge deniers are my mortal enemies yet I know they will always be with us. One wonders what a Ted Cruz/Sarah Palin Administration has in store for us. Just a couple weeks ago: "Singapore Library Will Destroy LGBT-Friendly Kids' Books at Behest of Bigot".

"Who Firebombed London's Oldest Anarchist Book Shop?"
"City Settles Lawsuit Over the Destruction of the Occupy Wall Street Library"

And so it goes...

Brief Idiosyncratic History of Authority/The Fearful vs. Mind and Books
The story of the Nag Hammadi Library is, for my purposes, the Ur-story. The Gnostic texts were ruthlessly hunted down and burned; the Church wouldn't allow any deviations from its carefully-assembled God Story. But someone collected as many of those texts as she/he could find and buried them...until they were found in Egypt in 1945. I love reading my copy of The Nag Hammadi Library, edited by James M. Robinson. It's amazing how many xtians I've met who 1.) have not heard of the gnostic texts; 2.) heard of 'em but ain't never read a one of 'em and won't be lookin' out fer 'em; or 3.) haven't heard of the texts but assume I've been duped by Satan.

We jump to the 1500s, conveniently for moi. From John Higgs's book on Timothy Leary, I Have America Surrounded: John Dee's library:

Dr. Dee was one of the leading scholars of his day, and a man who played a leading role in the development of the science of navigation. He was also court astrologer to Queen Elizabeth I, and he used her horoscope to choose the day of her coronation in 1558. He possessed what was believed to be the largest library in Britain, until the local townsfolk, believing him to be an evil sorcerer, burned it down. He was also a spy for the Crown, and was sent on intelligence missions in various other European countries. It seems fitting, therefore, that he used to sign his documents with the code "007."

1600: The Venetian Inquisition confiscated the great Renaissance mystic, humanist, magician-scholar Giordano Bruno's works. He was ratted out as a heretic. The Vatican bureaucracy compiled a large processo arguing for a mass of evidence that Bruno was a dangerous heretic. There were eight heretical propositions taken from Bruno's works that he needed to recant in order to save his neck. One of them may have been his wild idea that there may be an infinity of other worlds in the universe. (We now know this is virtually true.) Bruno at first said he'd retract his wild statements, but then changed his mind, "obstinately maintaining that he had never written or said anything heretical and that the minsters of the Holy Office had wrongly interpreted his views. He was therefore sentenced as an impenitent heretic and handed over to the secular arm for punishment. He was burned alive on the Campo de' Fiori in Rome on February 17th, 1600." Bruno's works and the Inquistion's case against him were "lost forever, having formed part of a mass of archives which were transported to Paris by the order of Napoleon, where they were eventually sold as pulp to a cardboard factory." - both quoted passages from p.349 of Frances Yates's Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition

1786: Filippo Michele Buonarruti, a most interesting figure, possibly aligned with the Bavarian Illuminati, which had been recently forced underground. Some sources refer to him as the "first professional revoutionary." Florentine police raided his library and confiscated all of his Masonic and anticlerical books. (see Music of Pythagoras, Ferguson, p.287) In the same year, in the Bavarian town of Landshut, police raided Xavier Zwack's house and a "considerable number of books and papers were discovered, the latter containing more than two hundred letters that had passed between Weishaupt and the Areopagites, dealing with the most intimate affairs of the order, together with tables containing the secret symbols, calendar, and geographical terms belonging to the system, imprints of its insignia, a partial roster of its membership, the statutes, instruction for recruiters, the primary ceremony of initiation, etc." (see The Bavarian Illuminati In America: The New England Conspiracy Scare, 1798, Stauffer, pp.180-182; 211)

1917: The Unistat government seized five tons of written material by the Wobblies (Industrial Workers of the World/IWW) on September 5th. A Grand Jury indicted 161 IWW leaders "for conspiracy to hinder the draft, encourage desertion, and intimidate others in connection with labor disputes."

1975: Michael Horowitz, keeper of Timothy Leary's archives, on the "Archival Catastrophe of 1975."
Once again, this blog spew has run overtime, and if I started in on the Leary case I'd go on for another 2000 words, so maybe another day.

Final Word for Archivists
Your work has consequences. After Ellsberg, the COINTELPRO findings, continued revelations about Hoover's FBI, Assange and Snowden, do we need more proof that there will always be certain elements of the State apparatus who see free thinkers as a threat? Your work is not "neutral." It cannot be: knowledge has a social origin with social uses. There is more than enough kowtowing for The State and monied interests. Howard Zinn, who shares my fascination with Karl Mannheim's book Ideology and Utopia - the grounding text in the sociology of knowledge - says that knowledge:

Comes out of a divided, embattled world, and is poured into such a world. It is not neutral either in origin or effect. It reflects the biases of a diverse social order, but with one important qualification: that those with the most power and wealth in society will dominate the field of knowledge, so that it serves their interests. The scholar may swear to his neutrality on the job, but whether he be physicist, historian, or archivist, his work will tend, in this theory, to maintain the existing social order by perpetuating its values, by justifying its wars, perpetuating its prejudices, contributing to its xenophobia, and apologizing for its class order. Thus Aristotle, behind that enormous body of philosophical wisdom, justifies slavery, and Plato, underneath that dazzling set of dialogues, justifies obedience to the state, and Machiavelli, respected as one of the great intellectual figures of history, urges our concentration on means rather than ends. -p. 520, The Zinn Reader, "Secrecy, Archives, and the Public Interest," originally a talk given in 1970.

So: you collectors of weird books, file-stuffer of articles on Those Things That Few Seem To Notice, those modern-day Thomas Paines out there, you who care about injustice of a thousand stripes: carry on! Your work matters and has consequences, as we have seen. It's possibly powerful. I have touched on perhaps 1/30th of the "archives in trouble" notes from my own archives/research/files. I'd like to read your notes on the subject, if'n ya got any.

Other Articles and Books Consulted
"My Life, Their Archive," by Tim Parks
"In the Sontag Archives"
"Timbuktu Libraries in Exile"
Buckminster Fuller: Anthology For a New Millenium: pp.319-325, "The R. Buckminster Fuller Archives"
Huxley In Hollywood, by David King Dunaway
Investigative Poetry, by Ed Sanders
Harvard Psychedelic Club, by Don Lattin
Wilhelm Reich In Hell, by Robert Anton Wilson
My Life In Garbology, by A.J. Weberman (too many JFK assassination researchers/archivists to mention here, but sources on Mae Brussell's files and a few others are mindblowing)
Wobblies!, ed. by Paul Buhl
-at minimum five books about Philip K. Dick: theories about the break-in of his house.
The New Inquisition, by Robert Anton Wilson: see pp.83-84, about Jacques Vallee's records of UFO sightings destroyed
The Cultural Cold War, by Frances Stonor Saunders
Birth of a Psychedelic Culture, ed by Bravo: Allen Ginsberg's files on the CIA, drug busts, and sexual persecution
-at minimum four sources on how James Jesus Angleton of the CIA got hold of Mary Pinchot Meyer's diary immediately after she was murdered
Double Fold, by Nicholson Baker, a secret history of microfilm lobbyists, "former" CIA agents, and warehouses where priceless archives were destroyed


Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...


Do you enjoy synchronicities? I started reading your blog post at work as I waited for a return phone call from a local official who is known as "Dr. Dee." After she called and I interviewed her, I glanced back at your blog. "Dr. Dee was one of the leading scholars of his day ... "

You worry about what will happen to archives in a Ted Cruz/Sarah Palin administration. My guess is mostly nothing -- as your sad chronicle indicates, chance and the carelessness of writers who fail to preserve their archives would seem to be more of a threat in the U.S. than political repression.

My own pet peeve, as you might guess, is that there is little archival material for Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson. RAW wrote in Cosmic Trigger 3 that he hopes someone someday will publish a book of his Shea correspondence. So far, however, there is no evidence that it was preserved.

At least with Aldous Huxley and some of the other folks you mention, their published works, presumably much of their best stuff, have been preserved and should remain available, at least for the immediate future. Perhaps the biggest loss of "archives" is the destruction of many of the ancient books that would have filled the library of Alexandria and other ancient libraries. Most of the works of antiquity are gone, including most of Sophocles, most of the works of other ancient writers of plays, many important Greek and Roman works of history, and on and on and on.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

On second thought, given the power of the national security state, writings that were deemed a "threat" might be in danger. That's something that also likely applies, though, when Democrats are in power.

Anonymous said...

For me the saddest archive loss of
the twentietn century was when
Pancho Barnes place burned. It
was probably arson because the
media had suddenly discovered the
Walker Lake space programs and a
sudden need for a squeaky clean
public image was felt. Pancho
knew most of the early aviators
and had pictures of them, most of
them were dead. The attrition rate
was so high that my dad stopped
going to funerals by 1930. The
test pilot death rate wasn't as
high as early aviation but it
was a lot higher than any other
job. So the entire pictorial
record of a cutting edge technology went up in smoke. She
was a real character, got her
nickname flying machine guns into
Mexico for Pancho Villa and liked
cigars. Pilots from everywhere
used to fly in just to see her.

One of these days the comp boys
are going to figure out how to
read the carbonized scrolls of
Herculaneum and Pompeii without
opening them. That should trigger
a second renaissance as those
who are past worshippers get a
new look at the past. Since the
Dead Sea Scrolls haven't been
given much popular exposition
since the leading expert said
Jesus was a mushroom it looks
like business as usual.

I figure the cutting edge stuff
is still partially available as
it is hard to destroy everything.
I did notice nobody ever did
manage to keep Cord Meyer quiet.

My favorite example is Marquis
de Sade, four successive regimes
tried to shut him up, but you
need to read him to be educated.
He was the most outspoken of the
advocates of freedom and rumour
has it that he started the French
Revolution by dropping notes
out of the Bastille. Forget the
sex he was a lot more dangerous
to the State by thinking aloud.

No member of the Republicrats
can be trusted with a library
and a torch because of the
proverb about scholars being
more dangerous than Tigers as
they can overturn an empire with
a stroke of their pen.

It's going to be interesting to
see how the security states
perpetual archives hold up once
those in power notice that all
of their activities are stored

Since the Draft Board is sending
notices to people over a hundred
years old maybe a cull of active
records would open up the usual
bottleneck in bureaucracy.

Amazing stuff as always, can't wait to see the planned expansion
of the topic.

Oz Fritz said...

I look forward to returning home next week to see exactly what lies Sanders published in The Family. I have a copy, but haven't gotten through it.

If the interview with Gold accurately reflects what got said, then Sanders seems extremely gullible to believe a story which falls apart with the slightest bit of research or maybe he just didn't care.

It might have been an exercise in the sheep-like suggestibility of people to believe everything they're told without checking it out.

michael said...


The Case of the Missing RAW Archives really bothers me. The curators of his works seem to have very little or nothing. Perhaps someone closer to the family has some insight.

I know RAW moved residence many times, and it was a particular pain in the ass for him, with his post-polio syndrome. He had one room packed to the gills with books at Capitola, his last residence, and he told me how he'd had to get rid of a lot books every time he moved. There are quotes from him about how he felt about the writing he'd done that hadn't made it into books. I'm thinking right now about a line he gave to Contemporary Authors, something like, "I'd rather be rhino-gored than to see that stuff turn up again."

But then he clearly wrote about the Shea correspondence. I'd think he'd had saved letters from admirers - esp, famous ones, like Leary - but we don't know this.

The Leary/Horowitz story I linked to may have made RAW extremely guarded about his archives, to whatever extent they existed: the idea of gvt thugs trumping up some reason to confiscate his personal papers may have been too much, so whatever archives there are were a big secret while he lived; I don't know. I may be projecting here.

Possibly he had well-guarded archives, but various moves whittled away his stuff?

There's an exchange he had with Rebecca McClen Novick in _Mavericks of the Mind_ that I find a tad weird:

Novick: What if there were times when the information had accumulated but not the political or social climate necessary to appreciate it? Libraries have been burned and knowledge chased underground by authoritarian forces.

RAW: Well, "Wherefore one cannot speak, therefore one should remain silent."

RAW basically only quotes Wittgenstein. But I cannot believe he didn't have more to say about this. He was basically "on the scene" when Leary's archives were taken by the Feds. He knew a whole hell of a lot of arcane stuff about book-persecution in history, and he was horrified when the Feds took Wilhelm Reich's books and burned them in New York, 10 yrs after Unistat fought a hellacious war against fascists who did things like burn books...and people.

If there was a very guarded, even paranoid element in RAW vis a vis his own archives, then what remains now that he's gone? Why is the family so loathe to let his fans know what's left? (I know they sold most/a lot of his books in order to pay off debts accrued, but what about his papers?)

On another level: I see the Democrats as rotten, and the party is to the right of what Nixon was in some very crucial ways. But there's an element of the Republican Party that frankly scares the shit outta me: I haven't heard a sane word from a Republican for quite some time now: their machinery of make-up a bunch of shit and repeat it so our people will believe it tactic has many of them sounding stupider than 4th graders. Sorry, but my study of fascism has that party squarely there. They're white supremacists, they hate science, they don't know anything about the rest of the world, their economic policies are so retrograde they must fight to hold back the urge to say, "Kill the poor people!" They love prisons, the war on people who use the wrong drugs; bombing other countries under false pretexts; they hate women, it now appears. I could go on. They seem so spectacularly stupid mixed with a feral meanness to anyone but the billionaires who got them elected or "patriots" like Cliven Bundy that I simply call BULLSHIT to anyone who plays the equivalency game. And let me reiterate: there are about 7 Democrats in the House/Senate that seem to share something along my own values. So I really can't stand the Democrats. But the Republicans seem a danger to my own well-being. They hate me and I hate them. Yes: hate.

michael said...

@ Anon-

I hadn't known thing uno about Pancho Barnes, so thanks for the name.

Re: Cord Meyer: What did you make of E. Howard Hunt's alleged "deathbed confession" to his son? Hunt named Cord Meyer as one insider of the JFK hit. Meyer himself said the people who killed his ex-wife were the same ones who killed JFK.

Your take on Sade harmonizes really well with mine: the sex stuff clouds even usually clear-headed minds. The "saying out loud" of things that no one else dared say: that's the value of his work, and RAW seemed to agree.

michael said...


The stuff about EJ Gold seems to have been transcribed from his notebooks/tapes and just quoted verbatim, as a data-dump in that section of The Family.

I don't think Sanders is lying; he's one of our guys, and is not buying the old Crowley was the most dangerous man in the world shit. It's more like your word "gullible," if anything. Sanders was so intent on doing a thorough investigation of the Manson story that I think his data overwhelmed him, and he may have made some errors by not knowing who was a trustworthy source. I do see Sanders as very earnest, with a good ear for bullshit but not a great one. When he took on the Manson story he went full-out. But he was then and always a poet, musician, scholar, satirist, archivist, and bookish man...assuming the role of journalist in that case. While there may be more "accurate" fat books on Manson, I haven't seen one that even comes close to being as fascinating to read, warts and all.

Oz Fritz said...

I didn't mean that Sanders deliberately lied, I meant the misinformation, some of which seemed deliberate lies, published in The Family from Sanders indiscriminately repeating what anyone told him. Others hold a similar view. Jerry Cornelius writes:

"uses Ed Sanders chapter on 'The Solar Lodge of the O.T.O.' which is legendary for utilizing every unsubstantiated rumor he could find."

from: http://www.cornelius93.com/epistlesolarlodge.html

The Solar Lodge, the "weirdos" in the desert as described above, seems responsible for the disappearance of the Crowley material. In the chapter referred to, Sanders accused the Solar Lodge with involvement with the Manson family. Sanders took that chapter out of The Family after the first edition upon finding out it was grossly inaccurate.

michael said...

@Oz Fritz-

Thanks for the clarification. My copy is 2002, and I frankly was unclear about who the Solar Lodge were anyway. I was drawn to someone claiming that Crowley manuscripts had been lost/stolen, and the anecdote from Sanders's meeting with EJ Gold (who published with New Falcon too, right?) was interesting enough to include, but maybe I should've chosen one of many other "cases" I've noted.

Your Crowley-chops always impress me. Thanks for adding info and value here.

Anonymous said...

Oz you'll have to forgive me for
thinking "airtight garage of
Jerry Cornelius".

I'd sometimes prefer the kitchen
sink of unsubstantiated hearsay
to the carefully crafted spin of
the official narratives.

If you watch the movie "the Right
Stuff", the bar was Panchos place
and the guy who played the part
of the bartender was Chuck Yeager.
Wolfes book was a great read.
I also liked his Electric Kool-
Aid Acid Test.

It is truly hard to forgive the
vicious streak of meanness that
runs through the Republicans on
policy but those who collude in
such things are not bringing
honor to the Democrats. Currently
our Democrat foreign policy has
us on the wrong side of every
conflict to the point of total
embarassment. It used to be
similar but at least wasn't
proudly announced as the best of

RAW seemed to be always learning
or trying to learn, that leaves
a lot of embarassing detritus in
ones wake. Fortunately I am
immune to such folly (joke). I'd
hate to have my young opinions
come around to haunt me.

We don't burn books, we only
force libraries to remove them,
we only cut libraries funding,
that's not the same as those
dreadful Fascisti who disliked
conflicting opinions.

We're about one notch away from
a crematorium addition to the
privatized prisons to dispose of
the overworked slave labour as
they are no longer economical to
maintain. At least a State run
institution has to be open to
some scrutiny for oversight.

And on that cheerful note let's
get out into the fresh air away
from politicians.

Did you see the hilarious list
of 35 influential Internet folk
who are writers (sort of, almost
maybe) ?

One who is not on the Net, and
another who hasn't written any
books yet. If I was Neil Gaiman
I'd ask them to remove my name
from the list. William Gibson
has always had plans to be one
of the mainstream literati so
might want to remain on the list.

Anonymous said...

The whole Hunt thing, Nixons tapes
a lot of circling around makes me
suspect that there is a lot to
uncover in the JFK episode.

I always figured Bush senior was
in the CIA to run the cleaner
operation afterwards, making sure
no embarassing paperwork was in
their archives.

The whole spectacle of Cover My
Ass games after JFK was shot is
an amazing glimpse of Goverment
in action.

Maintaining a sense of humour
about it helps a lot.

Eric Wagner said...

Great post as usual I fear you may consider me your mortal enemy: I put the match to Professor Armitage's archives. That, among other things, led to me getting kicked out of the Ph.D. program at Miskatonic.
Your post also made me think of the burning of Tibetan libraries by the Chinese and the burning of Jewish libraries by the Nazi's

ASU bought Bill Burroughs' archives. I used to look through them from time to time. I met him at the ceremony at the ASU Special Collections Room on October 23, 1983. I found him intimidating and hard to talk with.

Anonymous said...

Do we live in Legoland (simplified a bit for visual effect), where everything appears fragmented and we seem in effort to put and link things together and make sense out of them (or not) including files and archives? In reference to Ed Sanders (Investigative Poetry) and his chapter on The Legacy of Ezra Pound, Sanders writes: "Lines of lyric beauty descend from the data clusters." - "The Cantos of Ezra Pound first gave us melodic blizzards of data-fragments." - "And Pound was a skilled collagist."

The word construct seems amazing to me, considering the limited number of letters in an alphabet and the limited number of words in a dictionary. We use the same words every day over and over and over, yet the number of abstractions we humans can make seems limitless.

Another related mind boggling topic: the uniqueness and the originality of written works! OG touches on it: "Your work is not neutral. It cannot be: knowledge has social origin with social uses."

Can it (still) be unique? Can it (still) be original?

(BTW: great 'skilled collagist' blog.)
(PS: Legoland! Anyone? I have some free tickets.)

michael said...

I purposefully didn't define/confine my term "archive," but to clarify:

I see a continuum from our public and university/specialist libraries as repositories of "publicly archived knowledge" all the way down innumerable gradations to a reader/investigator and her notebooks/note cards/little notecard boxes filled with clippings and notations on whatever it is they're looking into FOR THEMSELVES, with perhaps the idea that some of the ideas will see public light.

Tacitly: historically there have been periods of asymmetry between the keepers of The State and the individuals in the State. It's anomalous when something like the Media, PA break-in occurs. And the Ellsberg-Wikileaks-Snowden period seems anomalous too. Let's hope it goes on, but let's also hope that enough of us ACT on the leaked info and work toward a less secretive State.

beowulf1723 said...

Here's an odd one that doesn't fit in the examples given. I daresay that someone had some 'splainin' to do.

Cologne Library Collapse.