Hammer head The making of a carpenter

Nina MacLaughlin

Book - 2015

"Nina MacLaughlin spent her twenties working at a Boston newspaper, sitting behind a desk and staring at a screen. Yearning for more tangible work, she applied for a job she saw on Craigslist--'Carpenter's assistant : women strongly encouraged to apply'--despite being a Classics major who couldn't tell a Phillips from a flathead screwdriver. She got the job, and in [her book] she tells the ... story of becoming a carpenter"--Dust jacket flap.

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Subjects
Published
New York : W.W. Norton & Company [2015]
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
224 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
ISBN
9780393239133
0393239136
Main Author
Nina MacLaughlin (author)
  • Prologue
  • Chapter 1: Tape Measure : On the distance between here and here
  • Chapter 2: Hammer : On the force of the blow
  • Chapter 3: Screwdriver : On screwing and screwing up
  • Chapter 4: Clamp : On the necessity of pressure
  • Chapter 5: Saw : On severing a part from the whole
  • Chapter 6: Level : On shifting, settling, and shifting again
  • Epilogue
  • Acknowledgments.
Review by Booklist Reviews

As she closed in on 30, MacLaughlin took a long look at how her arts-reporter job had morphed into the soul-deadening work of website managing editor (scrolling, dragging, clicking) and realized she had to make a change, or risk losing her mind. Quitting was nothing compared to the courage required in replying to a Craigslist ad for a carpenter's apprentice—a job for which her sole qualifications were common sense and a willingness to "lug crap." Surprisingly, MacLaughlin was hired and now, years later, enjoys a most unexpected career. All of this makes for perfect memoir fodder, but the author goes much deeper than expected, with thoughtful musings on workplace relationships formed through the art of getting a job done well, including her friendship with her boss, Mary, an impressively capable and patient taskmaster. MacLaughlin plumbs her journalistic past for literary and philosophical references, all well placed amid tales of installing lazy Susans and laying tile. Books groups will love this engaging and entertaining chronicle and want more from this multitalented writer. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Whiling away her days as a journalist at the Boston Phoenix, MacLaughlin watches her industry shift from valuing deadlines to valuing page clicks. After having spent most of her 20s in a computer chair, she decides to quit in favor of a more hands-on vocation: carpenter's assistant. Her memoir is an account of her first few years working with Mary, a skilled craftswoman who takes MacLaughlin under her wing despite her lack of training. VERDICT Because of her years of experience as a writer, the crown molding on MacLaughin's story is her effortless blending of literary craft with woodcraft. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Whiling away her days as a journalist at the Boston Phoenix, MacLaughlin watches her industry shift from respecting deadlines to prizing page clicks. After having spent most of her 20s working from a computer chair, she decides to quit in favor of a more hands-on vocation: carpenter's assistant. MacLaughlin's memoir traces her first years apprenticing for Mary, a skilled craftswoman who takes the author under her wing despite her lack of training. VERDICT Because of MacLaughin's years of experience as a writer, the crown molding on her story is her effortless blending of literary craft with woodcraft. [See Memoir, 12/16/14; ow.ly/MBEsA.]—ES [Page 120]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

A Boston newspaperwoman transformed herself into a carpenter's assistant and found new satisfaction working with her hands rather than molding words. In her light narrative, in which the former classics major wisely and sparingly employs allusions to Ovid and Vitruvius, MacLaughlin recounts her quirky journey, after seven years at the Phoenix, to landing an improbable job at age 30 as assistant to the highly trained carpenter, Mary, a petite, self-described "43-year-old married lesbian." Mary's patience and encouragement on numerous jobs in the Boston area, like kitchen and bathroom renovations, moving walls, tiling and ripping out floors and stairs, over many seasons with MacLaughlin allowed the author to grow and learn and even master carpentry work on her own. The author quotes Gabriel García Márquez calling literature "nothing but carpentry.... With both you are working with reality, a material just as hard as wood," yet Márquez had actually never worked with wood, while the author finds enormous release in hands-on labor free of words. Moreover, women make up only about 2% of the male-dominated profession of carpenter, MacLaughlin cites, thus rendering enormous interest in this painstaking work so lovingly delineated. (Mar.) [Page ]. Copyright 2014 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Combining sage advice from Ovid and Mary Oliver with practical descriptions of tools and varieties of wood, the author, who quit her desk job to become a carpenter, shares her joys and frustrations of learning to make things by hand in an occupation that is 99% male.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Combining sage advice from Ovid and Mary Oliver with practical descriptions of tools and varieties of wood, the author, who quit her desk job to become a carpenter, shares the joys and frustrations of learning to make things by hand in an occupation thatis 99% male.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Carpenter’s Assistant: Women strongly encouraged to applyHammer HeadBe smarter than the tools!Whisking her readers from job to job—building a wall, remodeling a kitchen, gut-renovating a house—MacLaughlin examines the history of the tools she uses and the virtues and varieties of wood. Throughout, she draws on the wisdom of Ovid, Annie Dillard, Studs Terkel, and Mary Oliver to illuminate her experience of work. And, in a deeply moving climax, MacLaughlin strikes out on her own for the first time to build bookshelves for her own father.Hammer Head

Review by Publisher Summary 4

A warm and inspiring book for anyone who has ever dreamed of changing tracks: the story of a young woman who quit her desk job to become a carpenter.