Paper: An Elegy

Paper: An Elegy

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by Ian Sansom
     
 

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Paper by Ian Sansom, author of The Bad Book Affair, is a witty, personal, and entertaining meditation on the history and significance of paper.

From the bathroom to the boardroom, paper is essential. Birth certificates, money, books, cigarettes, passports, tea bags, shoeboxes, toilet tissue, prescriptions, menus—all are made from paper. Humans have

Overview

Paper by Ian Sansom, author of The Bad Book Affair, is a witty, personal, and entertaining meditation on the history and significance of paper.

From the bathroom to the boardroom, paper is essential. Birth certificates, money, books, cigarettes, passports, tea bags, shoeboxes, toilet tissue, prescriptions, menus—all are made from paper. Humans have been using paper and its products for nearly 2,000 years, from its invention in China to modern America, where the average citizen consumes approximately 750 pounds a year.

In his brilliant and original voice, ian Sansom curates a history of paper, in all its forms and functions. Both an international cultural study and a series of personal reflections on the meaning of this essential product, Paper takes us through the panoply of human history.

This beautifully designed work, printed on high-gloss stock and beautifully packaged interweaves cultural facts, the author's own insights, anecdotes and black-and-white illustrations from around the world, from the ruminations of French Intellectuals to the Japanese art of Origami.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
With a playfulness that begins with the title, this "elegy" to paper is instead a celebration of its essential, ubiquitous role in society, culture and life itself. A surface reading of modernity suggests that we are on the verge of a "paperless" society, as everything from bills to books goes digital. Not so, writes Sansom, a British journalist, broadcaster and mystery writer (The Bad Book Affair, 2010), who writes, "As this book will attempt to show…reports of the death of paper have been greatly exaggerated." In chapters that encompass everything from treaties to toilet paper, from passports to wallpaper to origami, the author shows how paper remains central within our collective consciousness, how even when we move our eyes to an e-reader or computer screen, we will see page numbers for the cyberpages that we "turn" or an on-screen wastebasket for the documents we wish to delete. "We are, simply, paper fanatics and paper fundamentalists." While skipping across centuries and continents through prose that combines scholarly research and conversational engagement, Sansom insists that "this book is not, strictly speaking, a history of paper. It is, rather, a kind of personally curated Paper Museum." He explores the significant role paper has played in the lives of Dickens and da Vinci and suggests that Hans Christian Andersen was perhaps even more "extraordinary" as a paper cutter than as a storyteller. He writes of forgery and collage and of the paper trail that documents our lives from birth to death, and he writes with an intimacy that paper makes possible: "Paper's most powerful magic? Simply this. That paper allows us to be present--or to appear to be present--when we are in fact absent. It both breaks and bridges time and distance. I am talking to you now, for example, on paper." An enjoyable argument that speaks to the paper lover in all of us.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062241436
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
05/14/2013
Pages:
230
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.40(d)

Meet the Author

Ian Sansom is a frequent contributor and critic for The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The London Review of Books, and The Spectator and a regular broadcaster on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4. He is the author of nine books including Paper: An Elegy, and the Mobile Library Series.

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