Philip Hensher: The Missing Ink, How Handwriting Made Us Who We Are

This is a book about writing rather than pens though there is some stuff about fountain pens toward the end.  It’s a persuasive argument for the preservation of handwriting but it doesn’t go so far as to say it will survive.

Hensher takes us through the history of writing in his own inimitable way.  He’s quite emphatic in his beliefs about the subject and he doesn’t spare those that he regards as foolish.  The book really isn’t for the faint hearted.  He can be pretty explicit at times.

His central concern is that handwriting is generally not taught in either Britain or the USA with the result that kids grow up without the ability to write legibly.  Keyboard skills are all very well but they don’t help you when you are faced with a many-page form as happens in all sorts of circumstances.  Of equal concern is that kids can no longer read their elders’ cursive writing.  It’s a bit of a bind when Mama leaves a note on the fridge and it makes as much sense as Arabic to the kids!

The book is scholarly, funny and quite convincing in its central argument.  It’s also a very good read and I recommend it to everyone.

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