Via Gothamist and The Morning News last month, I ended up watching a whole Talking Heads concert. I’d never sat down and listened to them before, for whatever reason. But the concert was great, and I noticed a line I’d never noticed before. Late in Life During Wartime, Byrne sang: “Burned all my notebooks, what good are notebooks? They won’t help me survive.”
I love notebooks, and there seems to be a notebook theme showing up in my feeds these days. There’s the concert (watch it or put it on in the background). There’s also the 2010 story resurfacing, “The Manly Tradition of the Pocket Notebook.” Pocket notebooks are the best: I carried one for years after college, just trying to take in everything new I saw seeing. The story finds all sorts of old-school books on Google Books recommending the use of a little notebook. From The Methodist Review in 1907:
Whenever a germinant thought comes seize your pen and write it down. Such thoughts will come out of your special course of literary reading, out of your cursory scanning of current fiction, even out of the five-minute glance given to the morning paper, out of nowhere and from anywhere. Thought-compelling suggestions entirely foreign to the sermon on which you are just now engaged will frequently send you to your treasure book, and without any damage to present preparation you will scribble down a page of matter that will set you on fire at some future day just when you are in need of inspiration and help.
Then there’s the occasional notebook story from Poetry. I don’t know much of the backstory, but they appear to be poets passing along sections from their rich (very rich) notebooks. There’s Vera Pavlova’s “Heaven Is Not Verbose: A Notebook.” There’s Anna Kamienska’s “A Nest of Quiet: A Notebook.” Come for “Beneath the skull, a nest of quiet.” Stay for: “Pick a piece of wood floating in the river and follow it down the current with your glance, keeping the eyes constantly on it, without getting ahead of the current. This is the way poetry should be read: at the pace of a line.”