“Arguably literature’s basic charge is to describe being in the world—the Grainger catalog reveals just how extensively our writers have failed to document the varieties of work happening now, and the hyper-precise terminology surrounding that work.”

Dan Piepenbring on the wonders of industrial-supply catalogs.

Neat piece on the specificity of words and the specificity of tools, materials, and devices found in this mammoth catalog. This was a highlight, in his discussion of item descriptions:

“If ‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn’ counts as a story, then so, too, must ‘all-wood coffins store flat and assemble without tools. Can be stacked 3-high when assembled to maximize space in mass-casualty emergencies.’ Or: ‘High-visibility warning whips alert other vehicles of your presence.’ Or: ‘Stretch knit material covers head to protect from overspray.’

I owe my livelihood to technology and I love the raw capability it offers us as a tool, but I fear it a bit more than most people do. It’s a tool, but it’s not quite a hammer, because a hammer doesn’t seduce you into sitting around lonely in your underwear for 6 hours at a stretch.

I am frankly embarrassed that most of my musical life has been spent in the search for new materials. The significance of new materials is that they represent, I believe, the incessant desire in our culture to explore the unknown. Before we know the unknown, it inflames our hearts. When we know it, the flame dies down, only to burst forth again at the thought of a new unknown. This desire has found expression in our culture in new materials, because our culture has its faith not in the peaceful center of the spirit but in an ever-hopeful projection onto things of our own desire for completion.