Topical Guide 78
“Inspiration” and Transformation; Real Reality and Fictional Reality
WE WENT THROUGH back issues of Impractical Craftsman that evening, that first evening of the New Year. We found plans for many radios that might be suitable, but then Guppa came upon the one that was just right. The article began: “Here’s a project that offers hour after interminable hour of baffling precision work, one that’s sure to bring you an almost enervating sense of satisfaction when you’ve finally finished, one that is guaranteed to make your loved ones admire your stick-to-itiveness, your determination to see a difficult job through, your conviction that there is a right way of doing things, your unwillingness to cut corners.”
“This sounds like the one for us,” Guppa said.
Little Follies, “The Static of the Spheres”
As annotator, I have been given unrestricted access to Kraft’s library—that is, to his physical library, printed matter, not to his digital library. Recently, while conducting some research there, I was distracted by a small collection of hobbyists’ magazines from the period 1937–1953. “Why those years?” I asked myself. Well, if Peter Leroy and Eric Kraft are precisely coevals—both born October 29, 1944, one in real reality and the other in fictional reality—and they were about nine when Guppa agreed to build a shortwave radio for Peter, then Guppa’s back issues of Impractical Craftsman might reasonably have spanned the years 1937–1953. I began going through the magazines with the year 1937, and almost at once I found something astounding in the September 1937 issue of Modern Mechanix:
I know what you’re thinking: What does building a motorbike with a washing machine motor have to do with building a shortwave radio? Remember this?
No art without transformation.
Did Kraft transform this motorbike project into Peter’s radio project? I had to know, and because I had to know, I had a conversation with Kraft in which I played a fool’s part.
I asked Kraft, quite suddenly and directly, as if the question had just popped into my head, “Did your grandfather build a motorbike for you using a washing machine motor?”
“What?” he asked.
“Did your maternal grandfather, Clifford Lyman, build a motorbike for you using a washing machine motor?”
“No,” he said.
“Oh,” I said.
“He did build a geiger counter, but for himself, not for me.”
“A geiger counter?”
“Yes. He built it into a fisherman’s tackle box so that he could secretly prospect for uranium on family vacations in the Adirondacks.”
He paused. I held my breath.
“And he and I built a shortwave radio together.”
“Oh,” I said again.
I guess the transformation is in the details.
[more to come on Tuesday, August 31, 2021]
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