Sunday, 4 September 2016

The Missing Ink - Book Review


There are a lot of books on the art of writing and far less on the nature of what we write with…

So it was with some interest that I took up The Missing Ink by Phillip Hensher, a book dedicated to the nature of handwriting, how we write, what we write with, and how things have changed since the inception of writing.  Always good to get another perspective on how everyone enjoys the hobby that brings me most joy.

It has to be said, that when I read the authors opinion that “Someone who uses the Greek E probably had an early homosexual experience, might have had one last night as well…” I suspected that we might have nothing in common beyond a shared love of writing…

And reading further, perhaps not even that…

I read fast, so average books take me a few hours at most, this one took me a few days, and not because it was a very large book, but because I put it down halfway through and only just picked it up to finish reading. 

It’s a dry read, there are a number of things on how handwriting evolved, the different styles used by various countries and how the style of writing in general has changed over the years.  The problem I had is that there’s no passion in the writing, it’s like reading an article on Wikipedia, there’s no opinion to what’s being written, only the facts of the matter. 

Well, I say there’s no opinion, there’s plenty of opinion, it’s just limited to ridiculing anything that’s not like him…

Or Obese people having Obese writing for example…

Or praising the all-conquering Biro and Its phenomenal technical prowess…

Or relating the tale of when he went out with several hundred quid to buy a very specific pen in London and somehow couldn’t manage it, ending up returning home with a version of a pen that he already had…

Which, if I’m honest, wasn’t what I was hoping to get out of the book… 

It could be interesting if you have no idea of different writing styles, or why the Biro was such a revolutionary tool, or if you like reading witness accounts where people are either judgemental or ashamed of their handwriting, or they’re really enthused and committed to their handwriting, with the punchline being that they’re gay…because that’s the really relevant part of their love of handwriting…

With the exception of the part where he speaks of reading a deceased colleagues journal and seeing within the handwritten notes something of what she was, I found nothing in here to suggest that the author wasn’t just writing something that he’d been paid to write.  There wasn’t that spark of engagement that most people who write for pleasure have, he didn’t engage with what he thought, only what he judged other people on…

So if you’re looking for a basic guide on the history of handwriting and a lot of unsubstantiated buffoonery, great, this one’s for you…

If you’re looking for something more involved and less judgemental, Wikipedia’s free…


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