This article appeared in The Open Book Project, edited by Leslie Atzmon and Ryan Molloy and in an issue of the journal Book 2.0 edited by Leslie Atzmon.
“Discoloration and ratty dust jacket. Pen underlining. Moderate wear.”
— description on Amazon.com of a “Used – Acceptable” copy of Rosalind Krauss’s The Originality of the Avant-garde and Other Modernist Myths
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— comment on a file-sharing site for a link to a PDF of Rosalind Krauss’s essay “Notes on the Index, Part 1”
One of the more interesting volumes of Vladimir Lenin’s Collected Works, which was published in Moscow (in English) in 1961, is volume number 38, Philosophical Notebooks. It is a selection of texts that were important to Lenin, reproduced with the annotations that he made in the margins. Notes alongside an essay by Hegel include simple things like “!!!” and “NB” as well as longer notes like “The idea is … a process” and “remarkably correct and profound (cf. the political economy of the bourgeoisie”). These notes suggest a kind of conversation, across time, between Lenin and Hegel. The inscriptions, made casually, offer insight into Lenin’s immediate reaction to the text he was reading. In another set of notes alongside passages from a book by an author named Shulyatikov, Lenin writes, “what nonsense!”, “ha-ha! eclectic / not true”, “hm?” and “a lie!”1 The volume of reproduced marginalia and underlined passages reminds us of the intimacy of reading and the way in which it provides an opportunity for connection between a reader and an author, but also, more locally, a moment of contact between a reader and an actual, physical text.
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