GRAIN OF TRUTH by Ross A. Laird


The Ancient Lessons of Craft
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Careful, congenial, Zen-inflected rustications on woodworking, and, by extension, an entire worldview, from poet and professor Laird (Psychology/Antioch Univ.).

With the easy feeling as though he were pausing for a moment to offer these reflections on creative work, Laird treats readers to a few of his woodworking experiences and how the deliberate, exigent craft nonetheless relies on ingenuity, inventiveness, and a willingness to start with nothing, to be open to the possibilities, looking for an invitation from the wood. He has an admirable ability to focus closely, whether it be on the precise, demanding work of sharpening a knife on a water stone (then brooding on how the perfect edge is invisible, absent of light) or getting lost in the architecture of a woodpile, letting it incubate ideas of future cabinetwork. There’s a lovely meditation, as he builds a wooden block plane, on the keen sensibility of one’s hands, and there’s a deconstruction of an old rowboat that turns into an archaeological dig through memory. Laird is ever-attentive to the moment of creative impulse, expressed as perhaps akin to lightning, “passing over or through the body, scorching or liberating, sometimes painfully,” or the joy of “the articulation of joints that connect all the worlds.” Laird tips over occasionally into fruity aphorisms (“the magic of memory is only one of the many spells woven by the work of hands”), overwriting (“an emerald glistening far up the slope of a verdant landscape”), and an odd sense that he is subservient to the creative process, not elemental to it, as when he walks the woods with “eyes softly focused. I want the forest to offer up the pieces, to point them out to me as gifts. I don't want to be a thief here.”

Notions not necessarily translatable into your own life, but an elegant, calming pleasure to read as they touch upon Laird’s. (8 b&w illustrations)

Pub Date: Sept. 11th, 2001
ISBN: 0-8027-1389-0
Page count: 200pp
Publisher: Walker
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2001


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