Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tuesday Books

A hilarious guide to the lost art of artisanal pencil sharpening

Have you got the right kind of point on your pencil? Do you know how to achieve the perfect point for the kind of work you need out of that pencil?

Deep in New York’s Hudson River Valley, craftsman David Rees—the world’s number one #2 pencil sharpener—still practices the age-old art of manual pencil sharpening. In 2010, he began offering his artisanal service to the world, to the jubilation of artists, writers, draftsmen, and standardized test takers.

Now, in a book that is both a manifesto and a fully-illustrated walk-through of the many, many, many ways to sharpen a pencil, he reveals the secrets of his craft. How to Sharpen Pencils takes the novice pencil sharpener through a variety of sharpening techniques and includes chapters on equipment, current practice, and modern technologies. It also points at essential new trends in sharpening, including "Celebrity Impression Pencil Sharpening (CIPS)," a warning about the “Psychological Risks Associated with Pencil Sharpening”, and a survey of "Wines that tastes like pencils."

As Rees implores, "Sharpening pencils should be an activity that enriches the senses."

The exploits of the famous never cease to captivate our imaginations—rulers, artists, explorers, and all the great personalities of history. Yet many quieter lives also have the ability to impress, to teach us something about the remarkable qualities of human nature.

In this book, Robert Aldrich presents a fascinating portrait of gay men and women throughout history that reveals the full diversity of gay lives as lived in their times. He gives a voice to more than seventy people from around the world and all walks of life, from poets, philosophers, and artists to radicals and activists. Along with celebrated names such as Michelangelo, Frederick the Great, and Harvey Milk are lesser-known but no less inspiring individuals: two men of ancient Egypt whose lives were closely linked over four thousand years ago; a Renaissance nun who blurred the boundaries between spiritual and physical love; and “Aimée” and “Jaguar,” whose love defied the death camps of wartime Germany.

Often colorful, occasionally tragic, but all in some way extraordinary, these life stories reflect—and have sometimes helped to shape—contemporary attitudes toward same-sex intimacy.

Argentine doctor and revolutionary Che Guevara married the Cuban Aleida March in 1959 as Castro's revolutionaries were solidifying their hold on Cuba's government. Their story, first published in Spanish in 2008, is told from March's perspective in an often remarkable look at the figure many 20th-century idealists consider history's greatest revolutionary. Married only eight years before Che's death in Bolivia in 1967, the couple had four children. March's narrative—romantic, courageous, and insightful—is powerful and noteworthy for the author's honesty and commitment to rebellion and revolution. March relates her daily life of danger and fear among the targets of the Batista regime, and her reflections on Castro and other revolutionary leaders make for first-rate history. She does not address Che's brutality and ruthlessness toward perceived traitors, but what does come across is a love story against the backdrop of revolution. Countless family pictures and samples of Che's personal writings highlight an exciting addition to the literature of Che, Castro, and the Cuban revolution.
First-time author Mikey Walsh provides an unsentimental and compelling look at the louche and brutal culture of Romany Gypsies in the U.K. Walsh’s education began at age four with training as a bare-knuckle boxer, a family tradition. “Training” meant a decade’s worth of his father beating him up. Walsh’s sensitivity left him open to further abuse, both sexual and otherwise. His sole escape was the company of other semiferal Gypsy children and in school; unfortunately, Gypsies frown on school, and he was put to work at age 12 in his father’s scams. Walsh’s realization of his homosexuality drove him to escape a world where he would always be a pariah. Walsh analyzes the grotesqueries of Gypsy life in painful detail—garish trailers, stifling family ties, crime and crudeness, and the constricted options for women who are considered old maids at 21. Yet despite his gruesome experiences, he also praises the fierce loyalty and cultural continuity that have allowed Gypsies to maintain their dignity in the face of hatred for centuries.
A community of more than 5000 young farmers and activists, the Greenhorns are committed to producing and advocating for food grown with vision and respect for the earth. This book, edited by three of the group's leading members, comprises 50 original essays by new farmers who write about their experiences in the field from a wide range of angles, both practical and inspirational. Funny, sad, serious, and light-hearted, these essays touch on everything from financing and machinery to family, community building, and social change.

Marriage today isn’t what it used to be: for better, not for worse. As same-sex weddings are becoming more common, the classic love-story happy ending is taking on a decidedly new twist, everyone has a fresh role to play, and supporters and opponents of gay marriage alike are finding themselves in the midst of a revolution that’s redefining marriage—both as a personal choice and as an institution—as we know it.

In Here Come the Brides!, editors Audrey Bilger and Michele Kort gather together the voices of women taking part in—and shaping—this major historical shift. Representing a diversity of points of view in terms of race, class, ethnicity, and gender identification, this collection of essays, stories, and visual images takes a multidimensional look at how opening up the traditional order of "man and wife” to include the possibility of "wife and wife” is altering our social landscape. From wedding pictures and images of protest signs to comical anecdotes and sober philosophical analyses, Here Come the Brides! is an exploration of how the legalization of same-sex marriages has irrevocably changed the way lesbians think about their unions and their lives—and a celebration of the dream of lesbian happily-ever-afters.

4 comments:

Tim said...

Does Almeida March discuss Che's fervent desire to attack the United States with as many nuclear weapons as possible?

Because that's what he wanted.

This is like reading Eva Braun's memoirs. All you get is how he liked to give candy to children and pet the dogs. What you don't get is the holocaust and horrors.

shakes1554 said...

I know this must take the most time to post, but these are the entries on your blog that I look forward to the most. They always add quite a few entries to my "to read" list. I'm looking forward to "Gypsy Boy" after that description.

Writer said...

I somehow doubt that was part of the pillow talk, Tim.

Writer said...

Thank you, shakes. I wish I had more time to post more about books, but sometimes, I feel I've stretched myself way too thin. :)