Friday, June 3, 2011

On Distraction

I don't know what it is lately, but when it comes to attending to tasks- even those I relish- I seem to be like a kid in the proverbial candy store.


An example: reading. I'm not at all a fast reader, but have diverse interests and a complete inability to follow any one of them through. Perhaps it's just my DNA. But I thought I'd give an example. To whit, the current pile. And this is just the in-my-office pile, as opposed to the in-the-dining-room pile or the on-the-nightstand pile.

Have you noticed the title of this blog? I'm fascinated by commonplace books, and David Allan's "Commonplace Books and Reading in Georgian England" investigates the phenomenon in Georgian England, and the effect it had on readers and reading. Looking forward to it!

Molly Berger's "Hotel Dreams: Luxury, Technology, and Urban Ambition in America, 1829-1929" is the next book to be featured on my podcast, so I'm GOING to read it. I'm going to enjoy reading it too. But this one, as must needs, will filter to the very top of the pile, very quickly, as the books for the podcast generally do.

I'm a closet (or out of the closet, more like it) clock and watch aficionado. And more specifically, mechanical clocks and watches. And I want to learn more about horology, so Eric Bruton's "Clocks and Watches: 1400-1900" is on the pile.

In keeping with the above-mentioned jones, David S. Landes' "Revolution in Time: Clocks and the Making of the Modern World" takes a broader view of the topic, one I think I'll enjoy.

Language and linguistics savant David Crystal's "Evolving English: One Language, Many Voices" is a companion volume to an exhibition at the British Library that I am very sorry I did not see. As a language history junky, this book is like a sweet injection of the best stuff.

David Pye's "The Nature and Art of Workmanship" is a book that I return to often, and not just when looking for inspiration for my furniture building. I find what Pye says about workmanship can apply to many aspects of my life, from building cabinets to teaching library skills to baking pizza to being a father. From the second chapter:
If I must ascribe a meaning to the word craftsmanship, I shall say as a first approximation that it means simply workmanship using any kind of technique or apparatus, in which the quality of the result is not predetermined, but depends on the judgment, dexterity and care with which the maker exercises as he works. The essential idea is that the quality of the result is continually at risk during the process of making; and so I shall call this kind of workmanship "The workmanship of risk"... [which] we may contrast the workmanship of certainty, always to be found in quantity production, and found in its purse state in full automation.


Chris said...

heh, your reading pile looks very different from mine, which currently consists of:

- Book 4 of Donaldson's Thomas Covenant series
- two back issues of Rolling Stone
- five back issues of the New Yorker

wclaspy said...

Yeh, well, the top of the nightstand pile is volume 2 of the complete "Terry and the Pirates" comics that I just can't put down.