Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

Catapult: Harry and I Build a Siege Weapon Paperback – October 15, 1997


See all 7 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
Paperback
"Please retry"
$5.40 $0.01

NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE

Best Books of the Month
Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.

Product Details

  • Series: Harvest Book
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (October 15, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156005565
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156005562
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,968,798 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Acting on a whim, Paul and a friend built a catapult modeled on the ancient siege engines that once made and defended empires. A sort of "Zen and the Art of Weaponry," this understated meditation can be read as a lament for the human race and its blood-soaked past, present (and future?). In his first book, Paul investigates "catapult consciousness" only to discover "there was no mask, no special weapon-maker's mind." His narrative interweaves an antic account of the hit-and-miss construction of the catapult with reflections on the creation and use of weapons from crossbows to Nike missiles. He also comes to terms with his "wooden" father, a WW II bombardier who opposed his resistance to the Vietnam War. The Roman siege of Jerusalem, Henry Bessemer's invention of long projectiles, Scottish Highlanders' uprisings and the development of the atomic bomb are signposts on this odyssey into the wellsprings of warfare and aggression. Author tour.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

While the author's purpose in building a catapult was to have fun tossing rocks into San Francisco Bay, his account is much more than that. It is a history of catapults from ancient times. It is a clear and joyous description of how to assemble the machine in this day and age. It is a musing on war and sieges--from Syracuse to Josephus's Jerusalem and beyond. It is a little biographical information. And it is the story of Paul and his partner's growing friendship and respect in sharing the project. With humor and an ingratiating style, Paul has produced a unique book that is enjoyable, informative, and at times inspiring. More literature than technology, this delightful book is highly recommended.
- Robert H. Donahugh, formerly with Youngstown and Mahoning Cty. P.L., Ohio
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
Share your thoughts with other customers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By M. Allen Greenbaum HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on May 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is NOT intended as a "technical" handbook on making catapults: If that's your thing, you should probably try to find the equivalent of "Medieval Soldiers of Fortune." Nor is it a popular mechanics book primarily for men; just as fine arts are not, of course, just for women.
Instead, it is a book about two men who build an anachonism, and have fun while doing it. Inspired by a Scientific American volume, delving into ancient and contemporary history (they meet the inventor of the "Ozzy Osbourne Liver Launcher," a catapult designed to fling cow organs into the audience, but which, in its beta version, splattered security personnel on stage) they recount the difficulties of recreating a centuries-old weapon without DOD funding (although they succeed in winning a $500 grant from a local Arts Center "to observe the impulse to shoot a catapult").
The authors describe the catapult's history, with notes on the development, historical use, and mechanics of other weapons. All of this is interesting, but is not the heart of the book: How two contemporary adults--with the vague and unencumbered fascination of the naive--transcend limited mechanical and material resources and build something transcendent and personal, both art and science. Self-indulgent? Perhaps. But clear, plain writing and a nice eye for detail make this entertaining and unusual story work.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 15, 1999
Format: Paperback
Catapult is perhaps my favorite book - and I'm a nonfiction writer, who reads. The ironic voice, the pitch-perfect sense of humor, the grabby topic - but best of all, Paul interweaves a beautifully and concisely told story, about boys being boys, with a fascinating episodes-with-catapults history and with a surprising and wary meditation on the joys but also the questionable consequences of boys being boys. It's terrific.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Orrin C. Judd VINE VOICE on November 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
...
In this book, Jim Paul too is fascinated by catapults and by the concept of throwing stones for great distances. He wangles some grant money, recruits his friend Harry and together they build a working catapult & hurl stones off of a cliff in Marin County. Interspersed with the true story of their project are vignettes from the history of the catapult and siege engines ranging from Biblical Times to Edward "Hammer of the Scots".
I loved it and I don't think a weird obsession with ancient weapons is required.
GRADE: B
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By J. G. Heiser on January 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
I read this book when it first came out in 1991, which was before medieval siege weapons had become trendy. When the crew on Northern Exposure launched a piano, I wondered if somebody had read Jim Paul's book. When I discovered that PBS was doing a special on trebuchets, I looked this book up to see if it was still in print. Paul must have influenced these other experimenters.
This is a guy's book. It is about a quest; the noble search to do something completely useless and extravagent. The journey is the reward. The book was educational, but that isn't its purpose--it certainly isn't an instruction book for Society members looking for accessories for their costume. This is about doing something so old that it is new, on a scale that seems impossible for two individuals. This is an adventure, and it was a privilege to share it with Jim and Harry.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 1, 1999
Format: Paperback
The problem might be in me, having bought this book with the wrong set of expectations, but Jim Paul spends a lot of time writing about things that aren't the catapult -- the engineering and weapon-maker's mindset, masculinity, objectivity about one's work, friendship, family, art. Paul is a talented writer, with a real gift for the mot juste and the ability to pick out the distinguishing characteristics of people, things and events, and if the book had been called _Jim Paul Reflects On Life_, I probably would have liked it better.
But it's called _Catapult_, and I expected more information on the catapult itself, rather than just having it as a spur to drive the reflections forward. There's not a single diagram of the completed catapult; the only photograph is a deliberately arty one in ultra-high contrast so that all you see is a black silhouette against the blank white sky.
Basically, I identify with Harry -- I would have loved to have known more about Harry's thoughts as the project developed -- what worked, what didn't, approaches considered and rejected, tradeoffs made in design, and so on and so forth. Engineering stuff. But this side of the project is given pretty short shrift.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is not a book about mediaeval weaponry, it is a book about a man who becomes obsessed with an illogical pursuit - building a catapult. The man knows nothing about such endeavors, like myself when I first read it, and being historically accurate was not his goal. He just wants to shoot a projectile with as much force as he can. As Mr. Paul became engrossed in his quest, I became engrossed in his book - and his obsession. I lost this book in the Ft. Collins flood several years ago and have been obsessively trying to find another copy. Thanks, Amazon.com.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By K. A. Geiselman on November 5, 1997
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was at a reading party with friends, taking turns reciting passages from our favorate books and I noticed than Mary had a book called "Catapult." I instantly realized that I had to have it.
You see, I've built siege weapons myself. Granted they are mere models but I do have greater vision.
To be honest, Jim Paul's story was a little dissappointing. He prose is good and, as a writer, he is accomplished, but I think he missed out somewhat on the true wonder of hurling objects great distances. Oh sure, he realizes while he's actually throwing rocks over the cliff that he's having fun, he later retreats from this joy, back into the world of the serious artist that must find deeper meaning in such a 'performance piece.' The catapult that Jim and his friend Harry spent so much time, money and spiritual energy was used on one morning and then put away.
I found the three chapters chronicling the development of the attom bomb to be needlessly philosophical and not really on the topic of ancient siege engines. His other historical asides were very interresting and clearly on topic, although, his story of Napoleon's catapult was actually a trebuchet.
Which brings me to another little personal nit: Jim Paul derrides the medieval trebuchet, a counterweight device, as being "imprecise, immovable, liable to break down and generally stupid." As a builder of these devices, I can attest that, when properly built they are highly accurate an consistant device. A small device I made would consistantly hit a man-sized target 30 yards away with a golf ball.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?