Friday, January 25, 2013

10:00 am

The pen stays in the picture

"What did you expect, an exploding pen? We don't really go in for that sort of thing any more," said M as he handed another whiz-bang pistol to a nonplussed James Bond in Skyfall, thus dashing the hopes of exotic gadget-lovers everywhere. Then again, maybe the new M is a pen aficionado who can't bear to imagine wasting a beautifully crafted writing implement - the kind someone like 007 would carry, perhaps in a custom leather case from a shop in Mayfair - on blowing up some generic white-cat-stroking baddie.

If we were spymasters, we'd certainly go out of our way to preserve the handcrafted wooden pens that Robert Hewitt turns on a lathe in his Markham, Ontario, studio, in woods such as maple burl and zircote. Use them instead to sign multimillion-dollar deals with Russian oligarchs, or to impress svelte supermodels while signing for your chips at the cashier window at the Bellagio. $75,



Why so curious?

These three books seek fresh answers to a perennial question: Why are things the way they are?

Science salon is permeated with a sense of wonder. Maybe that's what lured in the many brainy contributors (Steven Pinker, Brian Eno) to This Explains Everything: Deep, Beautiful, and Elegant Theories of How the World Works, edited by John Brockman ($18, Harper Perennial).

Some deep thinkers focus on what we could be. In Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life ($29, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux), Adam Phillips cites Shakespeare and Freud while considering what our lives are not like. Is living the dream all that it's cracked up to be?

In The Org: The Underlying Logic of the Office ($30, Twelve), Ray Fisman and Tim Sullivan examine the forces that shape our modern workplace into something we tolerate, however begrudgingly - because it works.