Philip Hensher: Why handwriting matters | Books | The Observer

Philip Hensher: Why handwriting matters | Books | The Observer.

The Guardian is having a purple patch this weekend! Following on from Howard Jacobson’s article on Saturday (briefly blogged about here) is another interesting article about handwriting and the process of writing by hand.

I am increasingly aware of how bad my handwriting has become in recent years as I rarely have to write more than a shopping list or a few vague words in birthday cards despite me writing more than I have for a while here on the blog. I have also noticed that my spelling and ability to construct a coherent sentence straight-off have deteriorated due to the ability to make traceless alterations as I type.

I would also agree that receiving something handwritten has more charm than a typed letter, and I can place the last time I received a letter from an acquaintance (spring 2011 while lodging at Emma’s) such is the rarity these days.

As a result, I have resolved to write more, by hand. Keep a notebook (as suggested by Mr. Hensher) and jot things down – ideas, to-do lists, information about my day; not a formal diary as such, but more a mental scrapbook to be filled, edited, read and recycled once full – write letters as well as emails, send more postcards when away for a few days. Hopefully, it will help my handwriting improve and evolve as well as polishing my ability to communicate.


Howard Jacobson: In Praise of Bad Boys’ Books (Guardian, 6th October 2012)


While I don’t entirely agree with the whole piece, I thought it worth mentioning purely for the paragraph in which the author describes the effect of reading upon the reader:

Whence redemption as a measure of literature’s worth, and how to justify it given how little in the way of atonement on the Christian model, ie deliverance from sin; and how little in the way of intelligibility on the rationalist model, ie deliverance from fragmentation, so many of the world’s great novels countenance?

I shouldn’t pretend not to understand what in fact I understand only too well. I was a “reverence for life” man – “see life steadily and see it whole” – in my days as a lecturer in English lit. We are, I argued, if not exactly “saved” by reading, at least partially “repaired” by it: made the better morally and existentially. To those who found that idea fanciful I would put the question: when were you last mugged on the Underground by someone carrying Middlemarch in his pocket? We read to extend our sympathies, to see ourselves in others and others in ourselves, to educate our imaginations, to find liberation from the prison of the self, to be made whole where we are broken, to be reconciled to the absurdity of existence, in short to be redeemed from flesh, the ego and despair.

Football philosophy

Over the years, my interest in football has evolved, from an obsessive interest in the players to a more thoughtful approach.

I think the main catalyst for this change was Forest’s relegation to League One. Throughout their gradual slide from Premier League to the bottom of the Championship I had been able to kid myself that their demise was down to a chain of events which started with David Platt saddling the club with enormous financial commitments and finished with them forced to sell and weaken the squad in order to keep the wolf from the door. In each instance, Forest’s poor performances were a direct result of inadequate players bought because they were the best we could afford.

Once in League One, I firmly believed all that was over. Gary Megson had recruited good players, and as the most attractive (reputation-wise) side in the division, we had a head-start on the other twenty-three clubs which would ensure our imminent return to Championship football, the level at which we surely belonged for the moment as we prepared for an assault on the Premier League.

In the event, I couldn’t have been more wrong. As a quick look at the final league tables would show, Forest floundered, and finished seventh, in the play-offs before imploding at home to Yeovil Town, and finally scraped promotion on the final day of their third season in League One. In the meantime, Southend United, Scunthorpe United and Swansea City won the division with ease whilst operating on significantly smaller budgets than Forest. During this time, Forest also lost to Chester City and drew at home to Weymouth and away to Salisbury in the cups.

More than anything else, these experiences showed that in football, motivation and organisation mattered more than the quality of the players. Thus, a well organised and confident team could outperform a more expensively assembled side, not just on the odd occasion, but regularly.

This was my Road To Damascus moment in my relationship with football, though to describe it as a moment would be slightly misleading. It took until the World Cup last summer to really come together, with the discovery that there were plenty of places on the internet to feed my interest in the more ‘intellectual’ side of football. Below is a list of the blogs/journalists/podcasts I read or listen to on a regular basis:

These Two Make A Write Pair

James Ellroy and David Peace in conversation | Books | The Guardian.

This article isn’t new (in fact it’s over eight months old), but I only stumbled across it recently. It features two of my favourite authors in conversation about James Ellroy’s latest book, ‘Blood’s A Rover’ (no, I have no idea what that title means either).

I haven’t read the Underworld USA trilogy yet – it’s next on my ‘to read’-list – but I have ready many of Ellroy’s books, and they have consistently intrigued, appalled and enthralled me in equal measure. The best, I think, is ‘White Jazz’, part of the L.A. Quartet which, coincidentally, is named as a major influence by David Peace in this article.

One of the things that I find most interesting about this piece is the very candid way in which James Ellroy talks about himself. He seems to make no apologies for things he has said and done, and yet also admits that they way he was was less than desirable. He strikes me as an intriguing man.

David Peace is another literary hero of mine. His style, particularly in the Red Riding Quartet, is clearly influenced by James Ellroy, specifically ‘White Jazz’ as mentioned before. In contrast to James Ellroy, I have read everything David Peace has written, and been equally captivated by his historical novels and their ability to put the reader right inside the mind of the main character or characters.

As a result, the idea of the two of them ‘in conversation’ is a very interesting one.