Thursday, February 5, 2009

Like many over 40...

Michael Dirda in the Washington Post on Feb. 1:

Like many people over the age of 40, I still have a callused knobby excrescence on the third finger of my right hand, the place where pencils and ballpoints and fountain pens have been resting ever since I first began to learn the Palmer method of cursive handwriting. Kids no longer have this "writer's bump," since cursive isn't seriously taught any more. For the most part, young people born into the computer age can, by focusing hard, just about sign their names in longhand, but otherwise they rely almost entirely on printing or, more and more often, keyboarding. Today Truman Capote would have to quip: "That's not writing, that's word processing."

Sad to say, I just typed the above paragraph on a laptop. No handwriting implements were involved in the production of those sentences.

I do feel mildly guilty about this: In four broken coffee cups scattered artfully around my desk are a half-dozen fountain pens — among them an old Esterbrook (a gift from the writer Glenway Wescott), a Pelikan with an italic nib, a handsome Namiki retractable — and scores of Bics, rollerballs, felt tips and gel markers, as well as innumerable pencils, most of them with the names of museums, universities or other cultural sites etched on their sides. As it happens, I do use most of these hand tools of the writer's trade, usually the pencils, when scribbling notes in the margins of books I'm reviewing. Nonetheless, so poor is my script that these notes often turn indecipherable even to me after just a few hours. It's seriously frustrating to read: "The really important point is amxiwyby sowkymx, rather than roeqcz or kfghi.