|John Ackerman's office in the Cornell University Press|
building (Sage House), featuring covers of books
by some of his authors.
Artifact: John Ackerman's PencilThis is a #2 Dixon Ticonderoga pencil on John Ackerman's desk. Ackerman has been the director of Cornell University Press since 1990, and is also the acquisitions editor for Europe and Russia/USSR. He uses "#2 Ti"s (as they're known among connoisseurs) to do nearly all of his editing (viz. min. 1:36:11 and 1:41:43 of the interview). Many an introduction has been shredded by this pencil, for Ackerman is a famously ruthless editor of introductions. He noted in the interview that Vladimir Nabokov considered "Ticonderoga" to be an especially beautiful word. The passage in question is likely from Pnin (1957), a gorgeous novel about a Russian language instructor teaching at a thinly fictionalized Cornell, where Nabokov was professor of Russian literature at the time:
With the help of the janitor he screwed on to the side of the desk a pencil sharpener - that highly satisfying, highly philosophical implement that goes ticonderoga-ticonderoga, feeding on the yellow finish and sweet wood, and ends up in a kind of soundlessly spinning ethereal void as we all must.The pencils were never actually manufactured in Ticonderoga (pop. 3,382), but Ackerman was; he grew up there. He describes the atmosphere there today: "Sad. Very sad."