Tower: Faith, Vertigo, and Amateur Construction

Bill Henderson, Author
Bill Henderson, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $22 (208p) ISBN 978-0-374-27851-9
Paperback - 220 pages - 978-1-888889-38-3
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-0-86547-614-1
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This may be the quirkiest, most rambling and yet most charming self-help book that will appear this year, given that the advice is on raising one's own vertical sanctuary for the relief of stress, vertigo and a loss of the will to believe. Having recently built a Maine summer cottage, Henderson, founder and editor of the Pushcart Press, set out during a particularly stressful period to build a tower by hand, with mostly scavenged supplies and no power tools. Forging past his wife's protests, he purchased 1.78 acres of undeveloped land for the purpose near another Maine village. ""Edifice complex"" or no, Henderson rejects ""the bogus phallic symbolism issue"" and repeatedly states that he undertook the quixotic project ""for no reason."" Throughout, he examines and evaluates towers from various periods and places, like those of Pisa; of Joyce's Dublin (the tower of Ulysses still stands, and it remains ugly); and of Los Angeles, where Simon Rodia's Watt's Towers are now the centerpieces of a small urban state park. While the book sometimes seems patched together, and incorporates a few too many extended quotations from Henderson's earlier memoirs (His Son and Her Father), the stresses from which Henderson escapes--a ""wobbly"" period in his marriage; a struggle with the religious legacy of a God-fearing father and with his wintertime home's Easthampton church; a spate of cancer diagnoses in family and friends; the long-term effects of drinking--are rendered with a winning earnestness and immediacy. Even Henderson's Luddite rants against technology (he is a founder of the Lead Pencil Club) are disarmingly straightforward. By the time his vertigo gently subsides and he nails the tar paper to the roof, readers will be cheering him on, and will know a lot more about hand tools, shims and catplates. (Apr.)
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