Bibliophilia: Artisinal Pencil Sharpening

How to Sharpen Pencils
How to Sharpen Pencils

This week I’ve decided to use my two blogs on this site, Bibliophilia and Lucas’ Film Corner, to discuss the issue of irony in popular culture. Each post will be a sort-of response to Christy Wampole’s article How to live without Irony where I examine a piece of culture that seems ironic or plays with the idea of irony. If you have not read the article yet I’d recommend doing so before moving on to my response.

The most frequent question author David Rees gets asked about his new book, How to Sharpen Pencils: A Practical & Theoretical Treatise on the Artisanal Craft of Pencil Sharpening for Writers, Artists, Contractors, Flange Turners, Anglesmiths, & Civil Servants, is “is this a joke?” I should also mention that along with writing a book on the subject, pencil sharpening is something David Rees does for a living. On Rees’ website he offers his services as an expert sharpener. For a scant fifteen dollars (US) Rees will sharpen a pencil of your choice, ship it to you in a special container to preserve the sharpness, and enclose with it an autographed certificate of sharpness. So, the question again is “Is this a joke?”

Since the prevalence of the Dummies series of books satirical and ironic self-help or how-to books have been a common staple of humorous writing. Popular titles of the past and present include How to be Black, How to Live with a Huge Penis, and Lose Weight! Get Laid! Find God!: The All-in-One Life Planner. Some of these titles are written as one long joke and others are written as a criticism of this particular genre of writing yet I don’t believe that How to Sharpen Pencils really fits in either category. Rees’ book transcends the normal trappings of joke writing due to the fact that it’s largely not a joke.

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