By Philip Hensher
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $15.00, 270 pages
As the personal computer and QWERTY keyboards dominate our lives, Philip Hensher asserts that handwriting has become a lost art. His book, The Missing Ink began when he realized he did not know what his good friend’s handwriting looked like. Hensher romanticizes the ritual of writing beginning with fountain pens, copperplate scripts and even the common ball point pen. He explores the history of handwriting and the disturbing fact that only a handful of states actually teach penmanship any longer.
“The rituals and sensory engagement with the pen bind us to it. The other ways in which we write nowadays, however, don’t bind us in the same way.”
Clearly Hensher loves handwriting and the book is littered with facts, research and photos of many examples from the past. But the book also has a sense of humor to it, almost as if Hensher knows he is fighting a losing battle. He contends that there is room for both the handwritten and electronic communication. People need to re-learn the sheer pleasure of writing a note (versus typing it). He feels handwriting should still be taught in schools and does not have to take a ton of time. He challenges the reader to enjoy their handwriting, as well as handwritten notes. He suggests making time in our daily lives to write more though such things as lists and information that we need to remember. Most importantly, write to other people. On that note, I am sorry but I wrote this review on my computer. Perhaps next time, I will write my review by hand first.
Reviewed by Seniye Groff