Wednesday, May 2, 2012

pencils and post

In her essay, My Life in Pencils, Mary Norris describes her now obsolete job at The New Yorker, called collating, where she had to copy legibly all changes on a piece of writing (from editor, author, fact checker and proof reader) onto a clean proof page, which was then put into a cannister and sent, via pneumatic tube, to a higher floor where the changes were transmitted, by fax, to a printer in Chicago.

This leads her to ponder the pencil. It is a lovely little essay, in which the writer describes moving from a soft No. 1 pencil to a harder No. 2 pencil as feeling like she had a hangover. A party she attends is hosted by a sixth-generation pencil-maker, dressed "in shades of pencil lead". Not only does this piece refer to yet another use of the wonderful pneumatic tube, but it also lovingly celebrates another technology which is largely taken for granted.

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