Archive for May 2010

May 31st, 2010

My Single Favorite Passage of Prose Ever

A few years ago I bought a weird little work of non-fiction called Hammer. Nail. Wood. (The Compulsion to Build.) at a yard sale. The back of the book explained that it was about the author’s experiences constructing his own post-and-beam house.

I was excited as the strange (and all-too-rare) hybrid of memoir and how-to manual is my exact favorite thing to read. Hammer. Nail. Wood. turned out to be neither of these. Rather, it was a collection of disjointed, experimentally-written anecdotes, some of which were totally incomprehensible and many of which were only loosely based on the process of building. It was insufferable and disappointing and for a day or two I could not put it down. I have yet to read the entire book and I probably never will, but I will always own a copy of it — and this is especially because of pages 8–9:

“Life is a constant struggle between those who never do anything because they want it to be perfect, and they are such perfectionists that they realize the futility of their quest…and those who rush ahead in blind fury and do everything, simply everything, and it is not perfect, it is never perfect. It is only the agonized mind that makes a thing close to perfection because the agonized mind holds these two opposing views at the same time. It will never get done. It will always get done. Never. Always.”

I’ve often felt that, to accomplish anything of significance, I’ve had to simultaneously deny myself two (vastly different) things that I desperately want. This can feel kind of terrible when things are in progress, yet nine times out of 10, it’s been worth it in the end.

I’ve sometimes wondered if it was that way for other people. Whoever this Thomas Glynn dude is (I haven’t been able to find any further information on him), I know he knows what’s up.

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