TITLE: Catapult - Harry and I Build a Siege Weapon
AUTHOR: Jim Paul
PUBLISHER: Villard Books
Betsy gets the credit for this one. She found it in the Alameda Public Library: a perfect example of Ponarvians in action.
Jim Paul gets the idea to build a catapult when some moronic airport security guard prevents him from carrying an ordinary rock onto a plane. She tells him that it could be used as a weapon. Soon one thing leads to another and he starts to think about catapults.
Jim decides that he'd like to try building a catapult so that he can hurl rocks off the Marin headlands in the San Francisco Bay. Incredibly, he manages to get a $500 grant from the Park Service on the premise that he is an artist who wishes to "observe the impulse to build a catapult." He then cons his friend Harry into helping him and together, these two twentieth century warriors are off and running.
Paul intersperses chapters on combing junkyards for truck springs and wooden beams with chapters on Alexander the Great, King Herod, Edward the First, and Robert Oppenheimer. As the catapult begins to take shape it takes on a life of its own, and both Jim and his pessimistic cohort become absorbed in the quest to shoot some rocks.
Like all ponarvians, Paul pauses occasionally to wonder why he is going to so much trouble to build something of no apparent redeeming value. Fortunately, he never lets his confusion get in the way of his urge to throw rocks.
Catapult is a whimsical and strangely informative book that can sit proudly next to Tuva or Bust and The Search for the Pink-Headed Duck.