Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Essay: "A Hundred Thousand Straightened Nails." Donald Hall. 1961.

One-minute review: The author reflects on the life of Washington Woodward who could do anything on his farm, but whose life was wasted on moving rocks and saving old, used nails and talking about every detail of his experience. The author seems to conclude that the activities of Washington Woodward's life had no value to anyone. It was a full life, but it had no social significance. Seems to suggest that the traditional, individualistic, New Hampshire way of life was no longer relevant in the modern world.

Quote: “Many of my grandfather’s stories were symptoms, to me and not to him, of the decay of New Hampshire.”

Quote: “The best thing about him [Washington Woodward] was his pride in good work…. I knew him to shoe a horse, install plumbing, dig a well, make a gun, build a road, lay a dry stone wall, do the foundation and frame of a house, invent a new kind of trap for beavers, manufacture his own shotgun shells, grind knives and turn a baseball bat on a lathe.”

Quote: “He saved the nails because it was a sin to allow good material to go to waste.”

Quote: “He saved nails and wasted life.”

Comment: Maybe the modern world is what is irrelevant. RayS.

Best American Essays of the Century. Editors: Oates and Atwan. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. 2000.

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