New Invention and the Latest Innovations

New Invention and the Latest Innovations

Gaston de Pawlowski

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Introduction by Doug Skinner / Translated by Amanda DeMarco / June 2024 / 5.375 x 8, 248 pp. / 978-1-939663-98-6

Originally published in book form in 1916, Gaston de Pawlowski’s New Inventions and the Latest Innovations collects the humorist’s numerous columns mocking and deflating his era’s burgeoning consumer society and growing faith in science. From anti-slip soap, gut rests, and the pocket-sized yardstick to repurposed spittoons, nasal vacuums, new methods for curling endive, electric oysters, and musicographical revolvers, Pawlowski offers a far-sighted critique of technological gadgetry and an advance society’s promise to remove discomfort from every facet of life, even a seemingly endless supply of soldiers were dying daily in the trenches of World War I and technology was unleashing new horrors onto humanity.

Pawlowski’s humorous cultural critique and tongue-in-cheek celebration of uselessness and futility bears relevance for today, and not just because some of the absurdities described have since been invented: tech startups continue to receive inflated funding and technology remains the hoped-for answer to our increasingly troubled human condition. Described with the excessive optimism of the sales pitch, these inventions of yesteryear were also an influence in the arts, admired by such figures as Marcel Duchamp and Raymond Queneau, and standing as a precursor to the work of such artists as Jean Tinguely and today’s looming specter of AI-generated artwork and literature.

Gaston de Pawlowski (1874–1933) was a productive journalist, humorist, and bicycle enthusiast who wrote on everything from war correspondence to the fourth dimension. His friends and colleagues included Alfred Jarry, Marcel Proust, and Guillaume Apollinaire, but he is chiefly remembered today as being an influence on Marcel Duchamp’s conceptualization of the Large Glass.

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