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episode 75: Carol Beggy, "Pencil" (Bloomsbury, 2024)


A cylinder of baked graphite and clay in a wood case, the pencil creates as it is being destroyed. To love a pencil is to use it, to sharpen it, and to essentially destroy it.

Pencils were used to sketch civilization's greatest works of art. Pencils were there marking the choices in the earliest democratic elections. Even when used haphazardly to mark out where a saw's blade should make a cut, a pencil is creating. Pencil offers a deep look at this common, almost ubiquitous, object.

Pencils are a simple device that are deceptively difficult to manufacture. At a time when many use cellphones as banking branches and instructors reach students online throughout the world, pencil use has not waned, with tens of millions being made and used annually. In Pencil (Bloomsbury, 2024) Carol Beggy sketches out how the lowly pencil is still a mighty useful tool.


This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose forthcoming book focuses on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with qualitative analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.

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 February 28, 2024  57m