7.26.2013

the pathos of a library card

An encore post, with updates:
I have a small unintentional collection of library cards.
Each card, long after its obsolescence, remained tucked
like a little secret note in a book I borrowed or bought. But they're far from billets doux— rather they give off a blustery officiousness with their "do not remove"-s and their all-caps penalties.
 

They document a nice range of data-recording technology--from hand-written to type-written, rubber stamp to various arcane punch card configurations. That seems kind of interesting as a tiny piece of Historical Record. But mostly I just like them formally, graphically. The red-edged card at top right is positively bristling with overly involved methodology and procedure. The "Alluring Problem" with its red accent and bold star has an obvious beauty but I think my favorite is the small printed and punched ticket at lower left. The holes give a delicate visual syncopation to the printed statements which, although they are emphatically not, remind me of a haiku.

Library cards are extremely mundane but have a subtle intricacy that's poignant. There's something quietly affecting about the card on the bottom, right. Each month and year stamped and noted, each entry a remnant of a long-ago reader whose path crossed at that exact point with that very book. Had that card lain dormant in the back of Fashions in American Typography, in the basement of the Brooklyn Library, since June 29 or so, 1950—the last date recorded? Had it not seen the light of day until I requested it be retrieved after 60 years?

Am I waxing too precious to think of each of these little pieces of paper as superannuated governesses, each as an attempt to safeguard their charge when released out in the world?

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Angela: I did want to say something else after last night.

I hope it didn't seem like we were assuming that the blog itself isn't a worthy venue/genre for good writing. The form puts so much emphasis on visual stimuli and object linking, one can overlook that. Our group is pretty focused on the idea of "getting published" in the traditional sense, but that doesn't mean you have to be thinking of turning what you're doing into a book.

There is a lot of pleasing writing in your posts - the comparison between the library card and a haiku, for instance - both lapidary and surprising, a function I'd say of a certain quiet elegance in your voice. And again, this idea about the card could be developed: are there other aspects of this card that could be seen as calligraphic, Japanese?

As blogs become more sophisticated and the readers continue to segment themselves I imagine there will be a readership for blogs on non-literary topics written with literary verve. I myself haven't been able to make the leap from paper to screen; find myself printing out most of what I want to read off the internet. But I imagine there are other ways to make your writing noticeable to readers who focus mostly or exclusively on the computer screen for their text.

Hope it was all helpful. Mark

malcolmenright said...

Malcolm Enright - Brisbane Australia

Hello from downunder, the piece of ENRIGHT ephemera with the star and the title - alluring problem, the handwritten 141, gee where is it from?

As a designer and artist book producer I wish I had created something with that title?

Can you shed any light on the piece for me please?

angela said...

Ha! well hello. the "Alluring Problem: An Essay on Irony" by DJ Enright is a book I took out from the library. This old library card was just stuck in there. A completely serendipitous and unintentional piece of art...

malcolmenright said...

ha HA . . .
D J Enright eh? so he was an author (not a Dee Jay). Yes I've heard of him, sort of remember him as a poet.
I've used a lot of found library cast-offs in collages for the last 40 years, here's a link to a powerpoint of a 1986 group of collages I'm about to turn into an artist book - no real library cards from memory, its a play on various attributes of a product: (enjoy & cheers)!
http://www.coopones.to/male/viewer/images/Product-inseparables.ppt

angela said...

well, alas, the link is non-functioning

malcolmenright said...

well, its working fine . . . so what do we have to do so you can view it?
send me an email to here and I'll link you another way?
male@co-opones.to
Cheers from downunder

malcolm enright said...

http://www.co-opones.to/male/viewer/images/Product-inseparables.ppt

sorry, my wife found my typing mistake - a missing comma in
co-opones . . .

Michael Leddy said...

Well, I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who finds these things evocative. I have a small collection too. My favorites are the ones with great gaps: 1937, 1970. Poor books, waiting all that time, and surviving what must have been several rounds of what librarians call "weeding."

Angela Voulangas said...

Yes-- you are not alone Michael! I can picture the books--sitting tight on the shelves during all though "gap" years...

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