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How to Sharpen Pencils

1 December 2012

From The New Yorker:

“I see you have some very finely sharpened pencils,” a friend’s son remarked to me after staying in my apartment last summer.

It was true. The apartment was a little disorganized, because I had let David Rees and a crew use it to shoot a commercial for his book “How to Sharpen Pencils.” I play a woman frustrated by her inability to achieve the perfect pencil point: This pencil is too dull! This pencil is too pointy. David, who would film his part separately, played the late-night-TV guy whose pitch begins with some variation of “Has this ever happened to you?”

. . . .

I had to clear my desk and remove my pencil cups, which were also deemed too distracting. One is a souvenir of Greece that Kalamata olives came in; it is a dual-language pencil cup. Another, brassy with a honeycomb pattern, once held Greek honey (it is now stuffed with bookmarks).“Do you have a plain glass tumbler?” the director asked.

. . . .

When we were done, David offered to sharpen some pencils for me. I was thrilled. He got out a manual sharpener, green, that looked like my Carl Angel 5 (which I had taken to Rockaway and which, I am happy to say, survived Hurricane Sandy), and expertly sharpened a handful of assorted pencils: a Mirado Black Warrior, a Sanford, a Faber American Natural, a found Papermate, a few prized Palomino Blackwings, a red-white-and-blue giveaway from a patriotic supplier of home medical equipment (where did that come from?), a mysterious yellow-and-black striped Staedtler Noris with a green-painted tip instead of a ferrule and eraser—an émigré from Germany. The points were extra long and, especially on a long-stemmed pencil, elegant in the extreme.

Link to the rest at The New Yorker

Advertising-Promotion, Non-Fiction, Video

3 Comments to “How to Sharpen Pencils”

  1. There is a palpable satisfaction to a pencil manually well-sharpened that I remember well. The careful grinding with the handle, the appraisal of the result and possible re-sharpening, and finally the carrying-away of one of life’s ephemera: the perfectly-pointed pencil. And the scent of cedar infusing the entire process.

  2. Too funny.

    I had to go to Amazon to see if this was real. It is! I loved this author promotional quote:

    “You may think that sharpening a pencil is easy, but David Rees makes it look hard, and that makes all the difference.”
    —JOHN HODGMAN

    ha, ha! :)

    On the other hand, the Publisher, an independent, priced it too high. I would have bought this as an e-book for 6 or 7 dollars, but not for 11 dollars (or, as they put it: $10.97)

    But I will put it on my wish list and check it for price reductions over time.

    The trailer is clever, it made me go check to see if it was real. :)

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