Sunday gleanings

My 2023 challenge is to take 
a random piece of paper 
from my stash of ephemera 
and write a short piece every day.

#randomsbitsofpaper 004 talks about surprise finds that illustrate that I do not know what stuff I have.

I had forgotten about the good slogan enticing bookshop card owners to get the app that matches their customer loyalty card. No, I did not install the app, but when I took the photo below, my incredibly smart phone wanted to take me straight away to the app store even though there is a fold line across the QR code.

Lifting one finger is all it takes

The teller at the bookshop always asks if you want to use your bookworm miles, or whatever they are, so not using the app is part of my “one less thing” philosophy. That is quite ironic, since the card is only of interest if you’re actually going to buy more stuff.

My ephemera pick today was a small corrugated cardboard box (small is relative; it measures 105 x 105 x 65 mm) and a clear plastic packet containing small random bits of paper and other people’s business cards. All cards kept now fit in the small box. Except this one, kept for its cuteness factor:

A fat robin doing an incredible balancing act

I get other mail besides Christmas cards, such as newspaper cuttings. This one, from a translator with whom I have been editing for a decade or so, discusses Brutalism, a style of architecture influenced by the béton brut of Le Corbusier. A couple of years ago we had translated a stack and a half (literally: if printed out, the work would have made a sizeable stack) for the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, whose head office building takes the exposed concrete idea to heart, hence the kind thought sent to me in the mail.

A Financial Times article by Edwin Heathcote

The Financial Times is known for good journalism. It is only in the third column that Le Corbusier gets a mention and readers get the standard definition, by which time they have metaphorically absorbed the spirit and the substance of the architectural style in question.

John McPhee, a staff writer at The New Yorker, would have heartily approved of the structure of this piece. In his book Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process, he has a chapter on structure. In short, a story has a circular timeline; better stories start somewhere in the middle, or even the end, and finish at the same place. And this is what Edwin Heathcote of the Financial Times has done. To complete my own little circle, it was another kind soul who sent me the McPhee book in the mail. I have now tucked the newspaper article into the back of the book. Examples of fine writing style need to keep each other company.

Someone else who had his own inimitable style was Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. The journalistic and bookish connection is that Richard Stengel, the former managing editor of Time, worked with Nelson Mandela to produce his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. Here is the great man depicted on a crisp South African banknote issued in 2012 that a friend brought me on request.

Mandela detail on a ten Rand note

Now all I have to figure out is whether the stamps I found in my little box of business cards can still be used and to whom I should send one of the pristine greeting cards tucked away in a drawer somewhere. No, there is no app for that.

©2023 Allison Wright

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