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TOWER by Bill Henderson


Faith, Vertigo, and Amateur Construction

by Bill Henderson

Pub Date: April 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-374-27851-2
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Pushcart Press founder and publisher Henderson (Minutes of the Lead Pencil Club, 1996, etc.) discovers the "utter joy of

building" and shares his quest for grace, bargain lumber, and something to call God in this part-memoir, part-how-to labor of


Henderson built a three-story wooden tower on a hilltop near Sedgwick, Maine, a structure he initially thought of as "a tower

for no reason." The decision to build skyward grew out of a difficult time, a period when several of his loved ones were struck

with cancer, his marriage was under stress, he feared his own sickness and death, and he was overcome by love and concern for

his daughter. He began building without a real sense of purpose or direction, and his story is a testament to his faith in a world

that does not always hold the answers. Henderson's literary and physical projects take shape in tandem, both book and tower

turning out admirably strong and simple. As he goes along, he draws comparisons between himself and the builders and authors

of the past: Henderson considers the towers of Eiffel, Babel, Pisa, and Watts, as well as those of Joyce and Yeats. (In the tradition

of Thoreau, he even lists all his expenses down to the last penny.) He takes pride in sharing nuggets of practical advice acquired

as an amateur builder, and he imparts his theories of "Intuitive Engineering," then explains what to do with a J-bolt and a joist

hanger. At his most endearing, Henderson reveals secrets for overcoming rooftop vertigo (concentration and "the crab scuttle")

and admits to a tendency to scream "It's show time!" before lifting a heavy load.

Henderson may meander a bit, but his search for fulfillment and a renewed outlook on life lands on solid and fertile ground.

(10 b&w illustrations)