Paper: An Elegy

by Ian Sansom | Nonfiction |
ISBN: 000748027X Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingelizardbreathwing of Bella Vista, Arkansas USA on 9/11/2016
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4 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by wingelizardbreathwing from Bella Vista, Arkansas USA on Sunday, September 11, 2016
I purchased this in Bath, England in September 2016 during the Jane Austen Festival.

Journal Entry 2 by wingelizardbreathwing at Bella Vista, Arkansas USA on Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Well, I want to say that a book on paper is just as dull as it sounds. Yet, a book on paper is exactly the sort of nerdy thing that appeals to me. However, in this case---meh.

There were a few interesting parts but, like many of the "biographies of things" I come across, the author includes every bit of every random detail possible and takes lengthy jaunts in odd directions in order to fill pages. So, rather than being exciting and interesting, I found many parts to be dull and droning.

Still, some parts that I did like:

I was especially intrigued by the descriptions and histories of board games. I had no idea that paper board games were so old and that there were games like Monopoly that predate it. I'd love to get a hold of some of these neat Victorian board games!

I also loved his description of how he will go with shoddy clothes and bills owed in order to make sure he's got books. This is true Bibliomania---an ailment I suffer from without much suffering.

...and then there's the part where he used the word "phantasmagoric" by the third page. Anyone who can work that into a sentence deserves a good pat on the back!

Released 3 yrs ago (1/28/2017 UTC) at A Fellow Bookcrosser in Controlled Release, A Bookcrossing member -- Controlled Releases


Releasing into the Biographies of Things bookbox.

Journal Entry 4 by wingeponine38wing at Winchester, Massachusetts USA on Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Taking from the Biographies of Things bookbox. Thanks for sharing!

Journal Entry 5 by wingeponine38wing at Winchester, Massachusetts USA on Saturday, February 24, 2018
Mostly interesting; full of digressions, as noted by elizardbreath; overall a worthwhile read. I especially enjoyed the chapter on Games, as well as that on Advertisements. I came away with a greater appreciation of the importance of paper in every aspect of our lives, and learned a lot, including some interesting factoids:

“…June 1932, when the Prophylactic Brush Company of Florence, Massachusetts, offered a free fifty-piece [jigsaw] puzzle to toothbrush buyers; the craze so gripped the nation that by 1933, the American puzzle industry was turning out ten million puzzles per week…” As a jigsaw puzzle enthusiast, I found this intriguing. Wish I could get a puzzle just for buying a toothbrush! As it is, I check out the jigsaw puzzles on every visit to the dollar store.

I didn’t know that Neville Chamberlain, before being blamed for appeasing Hitler, was first hailed as a hero for his “peace for our time” efforts. “There were plans for statues to be erected in his honour. Streets were renamed after him, scholarships endowed in his name…” [How does this relate to paper, you may ask? Well, he’d been “betrayed by a piece of paper; he had trusted in words”. Hitler’s vow to make Germany’s relations with England of utmost importance turned out to be just empty words on paper.]

I’ve also long been interested in the Stasi, the German Secret Police (and have a couple of books on this subject on Mt. TBR). We learn of the calculation that, “at the height of its power, the Stasi…had 97,000 employees and 173,000 informers, all of them producing paper documents at an alarming…rate. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, many of these documents were shredded…” The author goes on to describe the gargantuan task of putting these documents back to together for the permanent record: one employee can only complete about ten pages a day.

The following quote (in a discussion of cigarette papers) was amusing:
“The cylindrical white paper cigarette…was certainly a sign of late nineteenth-century decadence, with many artists and writers taking up cigarette-smoking as an outward and visible sign of their inward and spiritual dissolution and decay. Nothing says I’m a despairing intellectual like sucking on flaming paper.”

One last factoid: “There was perhaps a certain poetic justice in the use of 2,500,000 remaindered Mills & Boon romantic novels to help make the top layer of asphalt on the M6 in England in 2003. The pulped novels apparently help to absorb sound – the endless silent crushing of romantic hopes and dreams.”

That last quote is from a chapter on unusual uses for paper. An hour’s drive from my house, there’s a (small) house made entirely of paper – including its furnishings. A visit there a few years ago made me appreciate that paper is good for more than just writing upon.

Journal Entry 6 by wingeponine38wing at Cambridge, Massachusetts USA on Saturday, February 24, 2018

Released 2 yrs ago (2/24/2018 UTC) at Cambridge, Massachusetts USA


To be given to GoryDetails at this afternoon's meetup.

Released for Keep Them Moving Challenge hosted by booklady331.

Released for 2018 Head Shoulders Knees and Toes Challenge hosted by awaywithfairies, for the embedded "leg".

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Journal Entry 7 by wingGoryDetailswing at Cambridge, Massachusetts USA on Saturday, February 24, 2018
Thanks so much for the book! Looks like it's a bit of a mixed bag, but I expect I'll find enjoyable bits - and I love the paper-art on the cover...

Later: I enjoyed this book very much, although I took exception with the subtitle, "An Elegy"; while elegies don't *have* to refer to something that's dead and gone, that's the more common connotation, and while the author raises the question of what would happen if paper disappeared, the book makes it clear that this isn't happening any time soon!

While I'd expected the book to be more about paper-the-substance than paper-as-it-is-used, the result featured tons of fun historical tidbits, and I enjoyed the author's writing style as he roamed the categories of Things Made Of Paper. (I did find myself fretting at the bits where the content on the paper was the main element; things like peace treaties and personal identification would have the same importance if they'd been woven into cloth or printed on plastic or carved into wood. Yes, we do associate all that with paper, and the existence of paper makes the proliferation of documents easier, but the content has nothing to do with the medium. But that's a quibble.)

Bits I especially appreciated: the reminder of the consumption of trees to make paper, and the global ecological fallout; the bibliomania section - yes, of course I'm one too; the contrast of Dickens and Joyce re the masses of paper advertising; the more-modern-than-I-thought-it-was history of origami, featuring "a New York socialite who overcame tragedy... a maverick Jewish sexologist...a South African stage illusionist..." and "a humble self-taught Japanese paper-folding genius". I also learned that silhouettes are named after a person - I had no idea!

Through much of the book I wondered if the author was going to stick to paper-with-content, whether printing, advertising, or art, but eventually he did get to paper-used-for-cleaning, from bath tissue to Kleenex - granted, not the most riveting (or appetizing!) use of paper, but one that many of us would prefer not to do without {wry grin}.

An excellent carrying-around book, as its loads of only-loosely-connected trivia seems best enjoyed in small segments.

Journal Entry 8 by wingGoryDetailswing at Murphy's Taproom in Bedford, New Hampshire USA on Friday, June 22, 2018

Released 2 yrs ago (6/22/2018 UTC) at Murphy's Taproom in Bedford, New Hampshire USA


I left this book on a lightpost in front of the taproom on this lovely day, after stopping by for a very tasty lunch. (Love their selection of beers, and the food was great too.) Hope the finder enjoys the book!

[See other recent releases in NH here.]

*** Released for the 2018 Keep Them Moving release challenge. ***

Journal Entry 9 by wingAnonymousFinderwing at Weare, New Hampshire USA on Tuesday, August 06, 2019
A friend gave this to me. There are interesting bits between a lot of blah, blah, blah. Scanned through a lot to find points of interest.

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