Skyscrapers are people, too

I attended the New York City Book Awards earlier this week where the winner, Gail Fenske, gave a talk on her book The Skyscraper and the City: The Woolworth Building and the Making of Modern New York. I really enjoyed the fact that she focused on personality and vision, and less on how many tons of steel were used (although I imagine the book has those statistics in it). My urge to rush out after the talk and take a tour of the building was shattered when it was revealed it is now closed to the public.

While sipping a nice wine (I know zero about wine, so my classification structure consists of yuck, nice, really nice, and hey there lady, my name is Chris…which one of us is cooking breakfast?) I met Ammon Shea, author of Reading the O.E.D. For those who don’t know, Ammon read the entire 20 volume set of the Oxford English Dictionary in one year. And no, he wasn’t stark raving mad at all, but then I’m prone to looking up a word and still be reading the dictionary a half hour later so consider the source.

  1. pinkgalagirl

    Was there a particular reason he read the whole set of the Oxford English Dictionary? What does his book consist of- tips for reading the dictionary?

    • admin

      We didn’t get into it that much, but I get the impression it was like any challenge, especially as no one else had ever done it. It’s not a how-to but rather…well, here’s the New York Times’ review:

      “Oddly inspiring.…This is the Super Size Me of lexicography….Shea has walked the wildwood of our gnarled, ancient speech and returned singing incomprehensible sounds in a language that turns out to be our own.”
      —Nicholson Baker, New York Times Book Review


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