Sunday, 4 March 2012

From Petroski to Andrei Bely (via Twitter)





Social media moves in mysterious ways. Or how material and non-material become each other's footnotes or references.
A quote by Henry Petroski has been written (by pencil) on antique paper and the paper has adorned the surface of a pebble. The quote reads like that:

"The pencil the tool of doodlers stands for thinking and creativity and at the same time is the toy of children, it symbolizes spontaneity and immaturity. Yet the pencil's graphite is also the ephemeral medium of thinkers, planners, drafters, architects, and engineers, the medium to be erased, revised, smudged, obliterated, lost - or inked over. ... Ink is the cosmetic that ideas will wear when they go out in public. Graphite is their dirty truth." 

The resulting object is a Pebble Paperweight Pencil the Tool of Doodlers, listed on Palimpsest’s sister site Inklinks on Etsy.

Whilst informing the good Twitter tweeps of the existence of said pebble, Palimpsest’s eye falls on a tweet by openculture about Nabokov Names the Great Books of the 20th Century. This takes Palimpsest back to Nabokov’s many references to the pencil and a perusal of said references ensues. Which leads back to reading Nabokov's list of great books of the 20th century and coming across Andrei Bely and his novel Petersburg, written in 1916 and revised in 1922. Which is followed by the “looking inside” the book on Amazon and lo! Another literary pencil to add to the collection of literary pencils:

A pencil that was lying on the table struck Apollon Apollonovich’s attention. Apollon Apollonovich took resolve: to impart to the pencil’s point a sharpness of form. Swiftly he approached the writing table and snatched up... a paperweight, which for a long time he twiddled in deep reflectiveness, before he realized it was a paperweight he was holding, not a pencil. 

Which quote take Palimpsest back to paperweights. Full circle. (I do believe in Twitter, I do I do.)

2 comments:

  1. I like Henry Petroski, but ink as cosmetic somehow doesn't work for me. Well, I'll try my own metaphors: ink is white tie and tails, pencil is blue jeans and T-shirt; graphite sketches my daily life, ink is for my funeral obsequies.

    I don't have any idea how chalk, fiber-tip marker, grease pencil and so on fit in with Petroski's metaphors. Jack/USA

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  2. Henry still has me worked up. Graphite is the day laborer, the contingent worker, the Mexican farm laborer picking fruit at harvest, the untenured adjunct professor and academic hobo, the geographically untethered consultant. Its work, and theirs, is readily effaced, despite the occasional permanence of their effects. Ink is the entrenched bureaucrat, the corporate careerist, the washed-up professor who's abandoned scholarship for academic gamesmanship, the union goon making ever more demands on dying industries, the executive crony, all with claims to permanence despite the sometime meagerness of their contribution. Sorry, Henry, you're a great guy, but I couldn't let you get away with ink as cosmetic. Jack/USA

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