Happy holidays & a recommended read

Kai’s Tech Writing Blog takes a break for the rest of the year. I wish you a happy holiday season, and I’ll see you in early 2011.

Cover of Paul Harding's book TinkersIf you’re looking for a change of pace, I can recommend a great, but short book: Paul Harding’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Tinkers makes for slow wonderful reading as the main character thinks back on his and his father’s life in rural New England through the 20th century.

Interspersed with the narrative are excerpts from the Rev. Kenner Davenport’s The Reasonable Horologist from 1783. This instructional text is a great example for artful and stylish documentation:

Now, the horologist looks upon an openfaced, fairy-book contraption; gears lean to and fro like a lazy machine in a dream. The universe’s time cannot be marked thusly. Such a crooked and flimsy device could only keep the fantastic hours of unruly ghosts. The front plate of the works is taken in hand and fitted first onto the upfacing arbors of the main and strike springs, these being the largest and most easily fitted of the sundry parts. This accomplished, the horologist then lifts the rickety sandwich of loose guts to eye level, holding the works approximately together by squeezing the two plates, taking care to apply neither too much pressure (thus damaging the finer of the unaligned arbor ends) nor too little (thus causing the half-re-formed machine to disassemble itself back into its various constituent parts, which often flee to dusty and obscure nooks throughout the horologist’s workshop, causing much profaning and blasphemy).

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