i realized after finishing another book yesterday that i've been reading a lot of novels about new york. a lot of people i know here read a lot of novels about new york. i wonder if this is because they find their lives in new york to be less interesting than the novels about the streets they wander, the characters on every corner... or if it is because it gives them insight into these things? i think i've found it an interesting way to navigate the city. it has introduced me to this place in a very odd way, by somehow occluding the difference between fiction & reality in a way that appeals to me, as a bit of a book worm. it's kinda like how i find myself thinking in the cadence of good writing after i've put it away. also somehow similar to the disjointed clarity one feels after drinking just enough to have a light buzz after lunch... you walk the streets and notice things you otherwise wouldn't. the light seems more cinematic, somehow... perhaps it's just that i enjoy the notion that i am a character here too - that my life, my stories, my wanderings are themselves a kind of narrative...
i read a great text while a senior in college – it was benjamin’s “Arcades Project” – a compendium of thoughts, observations, and quotations about Parisian arcades at the turn of the century…[the 19th]
Benjamin talked a lot about the flanéur – a man whose only purpose was to wander the streets and create stories about the people he witnessed – these were not stories he shared, necessarily – but it was a unique perspective that was distinctly modern, discretely linked to the very time & place in which it existed. people have at times mentioned more current flanéurs, among their favorites the Beastie Boys.
i think that in a way, my desire to watch and learn from the interactions and expressions of passersby is somewhat like this flanéur. though i would hardly flatter myself with the moniker.
i thought after the first time i read the arcades project that it was like the first hypertext fiction. Benjamin’s constant self- & cross-referencing of quotations and thoughts between sections on prostitution, death, flowers, the flanéur, &c, were david foster-wallace-esque… post-modern before the modern itself had even begun to unfold. in a sense, the concept of web-surfing itself is a bit like the flanéur – you pop in & out of peoples lives [especially when it comes to blogs or more personal sites], experiencing this or that little nugget and then moving on either by a link they themselves have created, or another search result, or perhaps the fact that this thing is kind of boring so it’s time to go visit another old favorite.
i saw today a piece of hypertext fiction that i enjoyed. this is a rarity for me – a lot like watching avant guarde cinema and instead of being confused or frustrated or irritated by the experience, you actually feel as though you may have learned something or seen something valuable in one way or another… anyway. it came after surfing a bit from a link off a mailing list i’m on, though i can’t seem to re-trace my steps and find exactly what led me there.
it is this inability to go backwards which i find most intriguing today.