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Catapult: Harry and I Build a Siege Weapon Hardcover – May 14, 1991
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
- Robert H. Donahugh, formerly with Youngstown and Mahoning Cty. P.L., Ohio
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Enjoyable book. I generally liked the digressions from the main plot into the history of siege weapons, but a few of them seemed way off the point of the narrative.Published 10 months ago by L. A. Hill
Hey everybody, it's not a how-to manual, so if you come with that expectation you'll be disappointed (although there was more than enough detail for my taste). Read morePublished on March 13, 2008 by Daniel Akst
Paul's book failed my "50 pages" rule. After 53 pages, five chapters, I found the author to be irritatingly self-indulgent. Read morePublished on July 1, 2007 by E. O Wren
Jim Paul found a cool rock, a piece of Red Creek quartzite some two and a half billion years old, and the heft of the thing suggested a project to him: building a catapult. Read morePublished on July 10, 2003 by Debra Hamel
This book had more then it's share of flashbacks to the ancient days of Rome and was slightly painful to finish. Read morePublished on May 24, 2001
The neat premise of two friends building a catapult caught my attention, unfortunately the actual book wasn't as successful. Read morePublished on April 28, 1999 by A. Ross