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Did Monkeys Invent the Monkey Wrench?


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"The hardware store is to the average man what the dress or hat shop is to a woman," we are told here, but even men who are not average, and women too, will enjoy this compendium. Staten (Can You Trust a Tomato in January?) grew up working in his father's hardware emporium in Tennessee, but here he focuses on the shop of Ronnie Matthews in Winfield, West Virginia, after pointing out that a hardware store is not a do-it-yourself discount outlet or a home improvement center, but rather a place where customers can socialize or buy a single nail if they want. There is etymology in these pages (the monkey wrench was not invented by Charles Moncke or laborer "Monkey" White or monkeys), there is history (the ancient Egyptians invented locks) and there are dozens of amusing anecdotes. The reader will learn such interesting minutiae as the fact that 90% of Americans call duct tape "duck tape." There are also some clever sketches, and it all adds up to fun. (June)

To do-it-yourselfers, hardware stores are sacred ground, comfortable places to shoot the breeze and ocassionally buy a screw or two. Staten, who grew up working in his father's store, conveys the traditional "general store" quality of hardware stores (not to be confused with home centers). Staten alternates short sections discussing the history of a variety of tools and products with anecdotes about hardware stores and their employees. While there are some interesting stories, most are not particularly insightful (many involving a particularly individual would be interesting only if one knew him or her personally). This is unfortunate because, like the diner and the general store, old-time hardware stores seem to be destined to disappear, pushed aside by the newcomers. There is definitely a need for an interesting book on the subject, but librarians can pass on this title.‘Jonathan N. Hershey, Akron-Summit Cty. P.L., Akron, Ohio

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