The incomparable Robert Birnbaum talks with Francisco Goldman. Along the way, they mention Walter Benjamin. Now if you’re like me and you encounter an author you haven’t read three times in print or conversation during the course of a single week, you immediately take pains to add him to your bookpile. Benjamin’s The Arcades Project, as referenced by Goldman, involved years of research and years of transformation and appears to be one of those hefty volumes that almost got away and didn’t quite make it to its inevitable form. (The version which can be found today was recovered Kafka-style from a friend.) Composed of notes, lists, labryinthine references, quotes, and more, all of it taking on some momentous expression of consciousness, one suspects that Vollman got more than a few ideas from him. I’m straddling the fence on whether to get sucked into Benjamin. But he was the guy who came first.