Living books

Marx famously announced that commodities have the uncanny quality of seeming to be alive. He pointed this out in a famous passage in Capital (1867):  

A commodity appears at first sight an extremely obvious, trivial thing. But its analysis brings out that it is a very strange thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties. So far as it is a use-value, there is nothing mysterious about it, whether we consider it from the point of view that by its properties it satisfies human needs, or that it first takes on these properties as the product of human labour. It is absolutely clear that, by his activity, man changes the forms of the materials of nature in such a way as to make them useful to him. The form of wood, for instance, is altered if a table is made out of it. Nevertheless the table continues to be wood, an ordinary sensuous thing. But as soon as it emerges as a commodity, it changes into a thing which transcends sensuousness. It not only stands with its feet on the ground, but, in relation to all other commodities, it stands on its head, and evolves out of its wooden brain grotesque ideas, far more wonderful than if it were to begin dancing of its own free will.

This Moleskin ad – by Rogier Wieland – seems to take Marx at his word.

The liveliness of things is somehow true of all commodities. But Wieland’s ad points to something else – the desire of static, immobile things to come alive. Or let’s put it another way, the desire of film makers and the advertisers who employ them to animate the inanimate.
And of course the hand which appears in the jerky stop-motion sequence at the outset of the ad, is self-consciously inert, particularly when compared the life within the pages of the diary. It is a thingly hand.


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