Catapult: Harry and I Build a Siege Weapon
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Catapult: Harry and I Build a Siege Weapon

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  96 ratings  ·  14 reviews

An “enormously entertaining” (Smithsonian), “clever, subtle, and adroit” account (Wall Street Journal) of how the author and his friend constructed a medieval siege engine in a San Francisco backyard. “So funny that I could not put it down” (Los Angeles Times).

Hardcover, 256 pages
Published May 14th 1991 by Villard (first published 1991)
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I bought a pristine copy of this book in a used bookstore in Ithaca, NY in late March, 2008.

After reading it, I understand why it was pristine.

Fortunately, it was a gift for someone who REALLY wants to build a catapult with me, so it's still useful. As a gift, I can't imagine a better fit, but I may be unique in my motivations for its purchase.

A super fast read, it does contain a periodic glimmer of information on its subject, but truthfully, it appears to be a vehicle that aspired to a "Pet Roc...more
A delightful story about engineering, friendship, and man's drive to build ever better weapons of mass destruction. At times quite funny, always thoughtful. I really enjoyed this little gem.
This review will have 'spoilers', but not for Jim and Harry's progress on building the catapult, or anything of that nature, just the kind of catapult they chose to build and the history that is worked through the book.

I read about this book several years ago, and, especially as someone who loves the eras of history during which a catapult was the height of war technology, I thought it sounded interesting.

Honestly, I had thought that it would be along the lines of several projects I had followed...more
Mar 14, 2013 Meagan rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Meagan by: David Wright of Booklist's "He Reads" column
If I could, I would give this book 3.5 stars. I really enjoyed the historical and scientific information about catapults and siege weapons, and the memoir bits were often really funny. These kinds of books, microhistories, where the history of the world can be viewed through the lens of one small element, are always enjoyable for me. I always walk away with new information and increased curiosity. In this case, I learned a bit about Frank Oppenheimer, the lesser known Communist younger brother o...more
So far a really fun book--which is not something I ever thought I'd say about a memoir of two men building a seige weapon. Great wry, commentary on conceptual art, the art of war, our fascination with machines, how machines, especially war machines, have shaped history, and on what it is to be a modern male, father, friend and writer. Love the self deprecating voice and the flow of the prose--no clunkers yet. Every time he's at a salvage yard or welder shop and completely out of his element, it'...more
One of the worst books I have ever read. Both builders are immature idiots and are utterly unlikable. These petulant children have no idea what is required to take on a long term project and the building nearly destroys their friendship.

P.S. i hope you aren't looking for a decent picture of the catapult or any hard information concerning its throwing ability. Luckily he does talk about trout and an awkward nude beach for a few pages.
What possessed me to pick this up I do not know. We all have our own follies and this was so 'out of left field.' I had to read this -- especially since it was on Fresh Air NPR. Like the two 'artists' and how they adapt as they move their art project/work along. Sometimes we all need to do something so out of the norm in order to feel 'okay.' Still chuckling.
A very delightful book about 2 friends that actually managed to procure a grant to build a catapult - and then launch huge rocks off the coast of California! This is their story - how they failed at times and how they, ultimately, succeeded. Predictably, it is quite funny at times.
Rachel Morgan Tucker
A very rare 5 star read. A wonderful tale of friendship and the lengths one will go to for a really juicy project. Just damn satisfying all the way around. And set in the bay area to boot.
Duane Gundrum
Two Bay Area scientists decide to build a catapult, and then all the fun ensues, involving the government, the military and a desire to chuck rocks into the water.
Another great example of getting an idea that just had to be acted upon. The result is a history, a journal and a questioning of art and creation.
Blew me away. This book was hilarious. I read it several years ago and keep it in my "read again every so often" pile.
disappointing in that i was hoping for an instruction manual.

fun story otherwise
Actually pretty refreshing and interesting and kind of awesome.
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“We live in the world we made up.” 5 likes
“All I'm trying to say is that if you're not willing to observe this, if you're just going to condemn it, you're never going to see it. It's there, whether you like it or not. This is stupid life-force we're dealing with here," he said. "Think how old it is, Jim. Think how huge it is. Understanding it doesn't make any difference.” 2 likes
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