Saturday, April 03, 2010


How To Do Nothing With Nobody All Alone By Yourself the most awesome title ever for a book, and Tin House Books now has Robert Paul Smith's long-lost 1958 masterpiece reissued complete with a blurb from Lemony Snicket and an intro by yours truly.

TH editors got intrigued by it after I wrote a "Lost and Found" piece for them about the book for their "Off The Grid" issue a couple years ago:

I don't know about you, but I wasted all but about fifteen minutes of my childhood. Those fifteen minutes were spent on a beach in Cornwall busting a nodule of quartz out of a fist-sized chunk of flint; thirty years later, I still have it somewhere in my office, in an old coffee can. Everything else I made during those years—the swords nailed together from old pickets, the forest forts that defended nothing from nobody, the poorly assembled Revell model cars with Testor's paint smeared lazily on them, the Sherman tanks drawn in near-medieval 2D perspective—they're all pretty much gone now.

Come to think of it, I haven't used the piece of quartz for much either.

But if I want reminding of where the rest of that time went, I have this book. A step-by-step guide to grinding oyster shells against the front stoop for no reason, to turning buttons and string into buzzsaws that won't cut anything, and to making paper boomerangs that don't come back, How to Do Nothing With Nobody All Alone By Yourself is about what you do when you're a kid and have neither money nor anyone paying much attention to you, and where your one guiding principle is that you avoid grown-ups and don't ask for help...

The Times calls it "definitely the wildest how-to manual I've seen this year" -- maybe because of, ahem, the sections on how to use a penknife and an icepick -- and Tin House now also has a terrific find up a Youtube: a ten minute interview with Robert and Elinor Smith by Edward R. Murrow.

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