Friday, January 18, 2013

The Missing Ink

Title:  The Missing Ink
Author:  Philip Hensher
Publication Information:  Faber and Faber Inc. 2012. 270 pages.

Book Source:  I read this book based on seeing a giveaway for it on GoodReads. The book came as a hardcover edition from the library.

Favorite Quote:  "In all sorts of areas of our life, we enhance the quality of our lives by going for the slow option, the path which takes a little bit of effort ... Perhaps that is the way to get handwriting back into our lives - as something which is a pleasure, which is good for us, and which is human in ways not all communication systems manage to be."

The Missing Ink speaks about the dying art of handwriting. It speaks about the evolution of writing, its history, its tools, and its place today in education and society. The book includes research and factual information and statements from "witnesses" to the process of handwriting.

Overall it is an interesting book about a topic we should address. The movement away from handwriting has influences some things for the better - for example, fewer errors in the medical field since individuals no longer have to decipher handwritten notes. For those with physical challenges, the advent of tools to help communicate brings innumerable benefits.

However, we are now coming to an entire generation who will not learn to write. Only a few states in the US right now require students to be taught cursive handwriting. And even for some of those, the requirement now is that a student be able to sign their names. That is all. Research is being done to consider what skills and learning processes might be lost and how to compensate.

This book addresses these and other topics, but it was not entirely what I expected. It presents a lot of information. That information is interspersed with personal anecdotes from the author's life and other "witnesses" as he calls them. The anecdotes and witness statements are interesting, but I found myself skimming through waiting to get back to the information of the book.

These anecdotes introduce a lot of humor and warmth into the book, but I am not sure they contribute to the end goal. For me, they detracted from the main point that we are losing the art of handwriting and generations are coming who will never learn that skill. Even though newer communication tools bring benefits, handwriting has a place now and in the future. I hope.

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