TM: I was really struck by the tone of the book. It seems weirdly refined in a way that was oddly familiar to me, but that I couldn’t quite place.
DR: That’s because it’s the voice that God speaks to you with when he answers your prayers. But for years, I have collected early-to-mid 20th-century industrial manuals and how-to guides. And a lot of those books are written in a slightly elevated, gentlemanly tone. Like, “The reader will be forgiven for thinking that this die cast mold will produce…” And for me, that tone is just so intoxicating. It’s slightly aspirational, like it’s written for the gentleman plumber or something. It’s fascinating, because these are blue-collar manuals, but the writing is often so much more ambitious and literary than what you would expect if you went to a Home Depot today and just bought a book called How to Put Up Fucking Drywall. That’s why I wanted the book to have poems in it and references to Biblical verses, because I really wanted to pay homage to all those books in my personal library.
Mark O'Connell interviews David Rees on The Millions. (Continent cut off, I had never hears of DR's book Get Your War On, which I have now ordered on Amazon. Where have I been all these years.) (DR's new book is How to Sharpen Pencils: A Practical and Theoretical Treatise on the Artisanal Craft of Sharpening Pencils.)