five great things someone else said, vol 24

alex is a total type a

They don’t teach cursive anymore. The time I first heard that, my heart sank. I didn’t believe my young cousin – maybe she was wrong? Perhaps the LAUSD and the Santa Monica/Malibu school districts were different. No such luck.

Globalization was putting an end to cursive, which was fine and well. Except it wasn’t. I am a writer. Both as an art and a craft. Storyteller and calligrapher. How were people going to translate documents fifty, one hundred years from now when no one could write in modern ancient script?

It just felt like a massive leap from one age to the next, only I was standing here, straddling the lines between then and now. Between ink on page and stylus on screen. I like a mix of the two worlds but can’t fathom merely the latter. I wondered how many kids would never keep diaries, for I never found printing could keep up with my thoughts the way cursive could. Can. Who journals in print? Who takes class notes in print? (Who takes notes in notebooks anymore, Alex?) I love technology but there is something awesome in seeing the handwritten notes, letters, journals of your gr-gr-gr-grandfather. Or the speech of a great thinker. The notes of a poet.

Helvetica and Times New Roman just don’t cut it.

I once found some papers from the 1920s, signed by my great-grandfather. An uncle of mine marveled at how closely they signed their names. A particular curl here, a flourish there. They never knew each other in life, but here they connected. In ink on vellum.

Garamond is a lovely font but it just won’t suffice.

There is magic in handwriting. There is beauty in the written word. Be it a diary kept on the front during WWI or a recipe box filled with handwritten recipes, the more beloved dishes easily identified by the papers stained by boiling sauces and dustings of flour, the tattered edges of the 3.5×5 card stock.

I know the world is flat now, I see that Arial is far more useful than the Art of Handwriting, but who can forget the day they mastered the tricky uppercase Q or the lowercase Z? Small victories made by little hands using chunky navy blue pencils. It was a rite of passage, the day upon which we were allowed to begin doing our assignments in handwriting. It was exciting and fancy and made me practically a teenager. I would practice and practice. In pencil, ballpoint and chalk. In fountain ink and paintbrushes. My perfect cursive signature.

My mark. Left on the world. xo a.

Five great things someone else said about handwriting:

The only thing most people do better than anyone else is read their own handwriting. – John Adams

She always used the same method, faking the rigid t’s and b’s of her mother’s signature and then, to distinguish her own handwriting, penning her signature, Lux Lisbon, below, the two beseeching L’s reaching out for each other over the ditch of the u and barbed-wire x. – Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides

Her handwriting was curious — small sharp little letters with no capitals (who did she think she was, e. e. cummings?). –  Erich Segal, Love Story

Over and over I feel as if my characters know who they are, and what happens to them, and where they have been and where they will go, and what they are capable of doing, but they need me to write it down for them because their handwriting is so bad.- Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

When I’d checked into the bathroom with Seymour’s diary under my arm, and had carefully secured the door behind me, I spotted a message almost immediately. It was not, however, in Seymour’s handwriting but, unmistakably, in my sister Boo Boo’s. With or without soap, her handwriting was always almost indecipherably minute, and she had easily managed to post the following message up on the mirror; ‘Raise high the roof beam, carpenters. – J.D. Salinger, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction


7 thoughts on “five great things someone else said, vol 24

  1. Denis Wright (@deniswright)

    Because I went to primary school in the 1950s (Queensland, Australia), we learned genuine cursive writing, flowing running writing that you never see today. We practised in copybooks and our wooden pens had long steel nibs. We had inkwells in our desks. The script was completely different from that of printing.

    I was left handed, and right-handers have no idea of the problems we encountered. But I won’t go into these here.

    What surprises me is how much better at it than we our grandparents were. Postcards sent back home from the Front in France in WW1 from my grandfather and uncles were written in elegant script that put most of ours to shame.

    And yes, the thought processes that go into writing by hand are quite different too. When you write it down, you do it once, so it has to express the thought as clearly as possible. Even the lovely prattle that my old aunts engaged in when they wrote letters to each other was like a river of thought, often poorly punctuated but beautifully written. They could only have enjoyed the experience of writing, and maybe the lack of punctuation was very Hemingway. Very stream of consciousness.

    Yes, this art will go, except amongst the diarists, the antiquarians and the calligraphers. When first I saw some of your elegant script I wondered (very briefly!) if it was really yours, or something wondrous cooked up by a computer graphic artist, but I should have known better, of course. Forgive the fleeting thought. No-one creates a personal touch like that on a computer.

    1. alexandrawrote Post author

      Funny, I had considered the way in which my thoughts flowed to paper in script but not the fact that moving to type we lose that finality. We can also hit delete, back up, rewrite once again. I type many a letter, but I still find that handwritten notes are priceless. The boxes of letters between relatives I have found decades, sometimes a century old, are incredible for so many reasons – but the handwriting is always fascinating. We will never learn much about someone through the font they type in. Although there are now more and more affordable services to have a font made from your handwriting. It’s a great concept for commercial purposes, but no two Fs or Ls should look identical and handwriting fonts have that uniformity. I’ll stick with the mess of inkwells and pen nibs. 🙂

  2. Jules

    Mikey is learning cursive in the 3rd grade, too. At least, that’s what the moms with older kids at his school tell me. If he doesn’t, there will be hell to pay.

  3. Pingback: that’s a negative | alexandrawrote

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