Let’s Get Sophisticated! #SophistiPop Old and New …. with Bryan Ferry, ABC, Michael Franks, Destroyer, Red Box, Aztec Camera, Marshall Crenshaw and the Style Council

“Sophisti-Pop” is a subgenre of pop that takes musical elements from jazz, MOR, synthpop and what could be best called easy listening, and mixes them with a more literary-than-visceral, slightly detached lyrical sensibility. And a lot of sax. Or at least that’s one attempt at a definition, although the songs I included on this playlist include plenty of outliers:

I also feel Sophti-Pop’s origins are obviously well before the 1980s. For me, the Roxy Music of Avalon (1981)  and Oh Yeah (1980)  are the quintessential Sophisti-Pop band and the Bryan Ferry of Slave to Love (1985) the quintessential Sophisti-pop singer but in Ferry’s 1970 solo work especially we find pop as Sophisti as it comes.  Here is Smoke Gets in Your Eyes from 1974’s Another Time, Another Place (and the tux he is rocking on the cover it the quintessential Sophisti-pop look):

Actually maybe the quintessential sophist-pop look is Martin Fry’s gold tuxedo. Final use of the word “quintessential” in this post: for me, “Valentine’s Day” is the quintessential sophisti-pop song. It has a quality of being overwrought, stylised and more than a little tongue in cheek – while at the same time being totally sincerely heartbroken. Oh and “School For Scandal/Guess Who’s Enrolled” is the quinte- sorry, archetypal Sophisti-Pop couplet:

Reviewing my playlist there are quite a few entries I felt had to be included more for representativeness rather than great enthusiasm on my part (Level 42, Temper Trap) but also many neglected artists who would shy away from the Sophisti-Pop label. Red Box are best known for The Circle and the Square, a dominant album of my childhood (the pop hit “For America” being a gateway song to a small-s-and-unironic sophisticated album) but in recent years I discovered the even stronger follow up, Motive. And here is opening song Train.

Another recent discovery has been Michael Franks, definitely from the jazz end of the spectrum, setting a rueful template which Paddy McAloon amongst others have follow. Here’s When Sly Calls (Don’t Touch That Phone):

The playlist is called Sophisti-Pop Old And New, and to my mind this kind of music has aged quite well (better than it might have seemed during the grungey 90s?). New sophisti-pop tinged music is still being made.  Destroyer’s 2011 album Kaputt is highly Sophisti, especially the title track, but here is the more downtempo Chinatown:

Not a sax to be heard in Aztec Camera’s Spanish Horses, but it’s as Sophisti as they come:

I knew  Your’e My Favourite Waste of Time best in the rather stereotypically 80s Owen Paul cover, but here is the original by Marshall Crenshaw which has a more Sophisti sensibilty :

I could go on and on and on and on (in fact, I have already written and deleted “finally” about five times in this post) but the final finally is here – and I am desperately trying to avoid the q word but the Style Council’s “Shout to the Top” is, well, um, a really good example of Sophisti Pop:

 

 

 

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Review of “Guys and Dolls” from StompTokyo.com 1999/2000-ish

While the website Stomp Tokyo still exists, this particular review is on it no more…and I am not sure how well it fitted with Stomp Tokyo’s overall aesthetic of “B-movies, Godzilla and video cheese since 1996” For a while they had guest reviews of videos of which this was one…

 

Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando are both icons of natural cool, so it comes as a surprise that their one appearance in the same movie is so (relatively) little known and less celebrated. The received wisdom is that the spirit of the musical (adapted from Damon Runyon’s short stories) was lost, and that Frank and Marlon lacked “chemistry”, perhaps because they detested each other (Sinatra couldn’t stomach Marlon’s multiple takes – literally so in the cheesecake sequence; while Marlon said of Frank “he’s the type of guy that once he gets to heaven he’ll give God a hard time for making him bald.”

These points are valid, but nevertheless Guys and Dolls is a loveable, big shaggy dog of a movie. The film opens with a rather stylised dance sequence in a strangely deserted Times Square. Assorted dancers represent the feckless (but loveable) characters of Times Square as they do their various things: gambling on horses, pilfering the odd watch or wallet, avoiding the NYPD and the like – all in a very feckless (but loveable) way. In other words, very much pre-Rudy Giuliani. We are introduced in short order to Nicely Nicely and Benny, among the most amiable henchmen in motion picture history, whose boss is none other than Nathan Detroit (Frank Sinatra), proprietor of what is celebrated in song as “the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York.”

Unfortunately for Nathan, the NYPD, in the stern form of Lieutenant Brannigan (Robert Keith, a spectacularly glacial presence in an otherwise sunny film) are breathing hot down his neck. Nathan also has to contend with his fiancée Adelaide (Vivian Blaine), possibly the most dizzy piece of vanilla to be projected at twenty-four frames per second, who has ambitions for Nathan to become an unspecified “normal businessman”. In the face of these twin threats, Nathan is reluctant to abandon the game, after all: “I have been running that crap game ever since I was a juvenile delinquent” and more pertinently there’s a lot of very big money in town.

One of the most endearing features of Guys and Dolls, incidentally, is the precise, formal way the various feckless (but loveable) low lives who inhabit the film speak. No one ever says “It’s” or “I’ve” or “I don’t”; it is constantly “It is” “I have” and “I do not” which gives a strangely courtly air to proceedings. Early on Nicely Nicely asks “If it can be told, where did you collect this fine bundle of lettuce?” which is typical of the how the characters speak – politeness and slang mixing in the same breath.

Nathan finds himself needing $1000 to be in a position to hold the game, at which stage we encounter Skye Masterson (Marlon Brando), the highest roller of them all. Nathan tries to engage Skye in an all too transparent sucker bet for the $1000, which fails. At this juncture Skye holds forth on the fair sex, lecturing the soon-to-be-ex-bachelor Nathan that “The companionship of a doll is a pleasant thing even for a time running into months, but for a close relationship that can last us through all the years of our life, no doll can take the place of aces back to back.” J

ust as two cops who hate each other will, as part perhaps of an undiscovered Law of Physics, become best friends, with this speech Brando might as well have tattooed “I’M GETTING MARRIED IN THIS FILM” on his forehead. And one of the major pleasures of Guys and Dolls is having your expectations fulfilled, and the wit and style with which it happens. Nathan sees his chance and bets Skye $1000 that he can’t take any doll he cares to name to Havana with him the next day. The doll in question is Sergeant Sarah Brown of the Save-a-Soul Mission, a particularly unsuccessful evangelist (despite being played by the ever-radiant Jean Simmons) Sarah Brown is constantly buttoning and unbuttoning her blouse button, particularly in the presence of Marlon Brando, a habit that the greatest minds in psychoanalysis would fail to decipher.

Skye manifests himself at the mission to insinuate himself into the good Sergeant’s good books, despite her best efforts to repel the self-proclaimed “unhappy sinner.” Skye demonstrates his superior knowledge of scripture, since “I would imagine there’s only one thing that’s been in as many hotel rooms as I have – the Gideon Bible.” The rest of the plot of Guys and Dolls is at this stage probably eminently predictable to the average moviegoer. It isn’t perfect – some of the dancing sequences are a trifle stagebound and at two and a half hours, there are occasional longeurs. And Brando and Sinatra do lack a certain naturalness together that we see in Brando’s scenes with Simmons and Sinatra’s with Blaine. The sets are cheap and cheesy, but this is part of the whole charm of the piece – a Technicolor never-never land of fast talking guys and their dolls.

Escher on video and in Lego form

Escher on video and in Lego form

The Escher Museum in the Hague have a page with lots of Escher videos

Here is an excerpt from a National Film Board of Canada film which elegantly animates Escher’s work:

Here is what is apparently the only surviving film of Escher at work:

Part 1 of a 2 part documentary on Escher with Roger Penrose:

I long to attempt some of these Lego versions of Escher images.

Firstly, via the website of Andrew Lipson, here is Ascending and Descending (the ever-rising staircase)

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Again via Andrew Lipson, here is “Relativity”:

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And again via Lipson, here is “Waterfall”:

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Here is a gallery featuring the above images, and other Escher-based Lego creations by Lipson and his collaborator Daniel Shiu, with the originals for comparison.

Here is a Daily Mail article from 2011 on Lipson’s Lego work.

“The Faber Popular Reciter”, Introduction by Kingsley Amis

In a letter of 12 August 1977 to Robert Conquest, Kingsley Amis wrote:

The Faber Book of Non-Trendy Verse has been easier and is going faster: a careful look through the Dict of Quots took me most of the way, then hymnals and old-fashioned anthologies.

“The Faber Book of Non-Trendy Verse” is The Faber Popular Reciter, edited and introduced by Amis (the “Dict of Quots” is the dictionary of quotations; obvious to most readers no doubt, but I was initially thrown!) Here is the blurb, which along with the Conquest letter quote, gives a good sense of the thing:

I have never quite taken to Martin, but the elder Amis is an interesting figure. I previously noted his judgments, too easy to dismiss as crustily reactionary, can be surprising. “Stanley and the Women” contains, amongst other things, one of the best, most realistic and least sentimental portrayals of schizophrenia in a novel. Anthony Powell commented of him that “his hatred of pretension was itself a form of pretension.”

His introduction to The Faber Popular Reciter is a splendid, at times tendentious, always interesting little essay in its own right. There are few poems I can think of since the 1930s that could possibly be considered recitation pieces in Amis’ terms (as opposed to poetry reading performances) – perhaps Heaney’s “Mid-Term Break.” As the book is out of print and I cannot find any trace of this introduction online, I have taken the liberty of reproducing it in full below.

The book itself is a splendid collection of splendid, and very non-trendy (to the degree they may have a trendiness of their own again) poems. There are five Wordsworth poems, despite Amis’ words below. There are two Yeats, the Lake Isle of Inisfree which I would expect and Easter 1916, which I wouldn’t (I would have thought The Second Coming, or The Ballad of Father Gilligan, or many others, were more recitation pieces…. but a terrible beauty is born is a great phrase I suppose)

When I was a schoolboy before the Second World War, the majority of the poems in this book were too well known to be worth reprinting. If they were not in one anthology they were in a couple of others; they were learned by heart and recited in class, or performed as turns at grown-up gatherings; they were sung in church or chapel or on other public occasions. Some were set as texts for classical translation, an exercise that gives you insight hard to achieve by other means: the fact, noted by my fellow and me, that Mrs Hemans’ ‘Graves of a Household’ went into Latin elegiacs with exceptional ease encourages a second look at that superficially superficial piece.

Most of that, together with much else, has gone. I suppose hymns are still sung here and there, classical verses written and – another way of gaining insight – poems learned by heart and recited. But in any real sense the last could only happen in school, as part of an academic discipline. Any adult who commits a poem to memory does so for personal satisfaction; if he utters it in company he does so to share it with like-minded friends (or as a harmless means of showing off), and as one who quotes, not as one who recites.

I should be sorry, the, if readers of this book were to be confined to those in search of material for what we usually understand by recitation. ‘Reciter’ is a nineteenth-century term used here for a collection of characteristically nineteenth-century objects: poems that sound well and go well when spoken in a declamatory style, a style very far indeed removed from any of those to be found at that (alas!) characteristically twentieth-century occasion, the poetry recital, with all its exhibitionism and sheer bad art. If recitation has died out in the family circle, reading aloud has not, and it is as material for this that my anthology is ideally intended; let me remind the doubtful that here is a third way, less troublesome that the first two, of finding out more about a piece of writing and so enjoying it more. Others will perhaps be glad to have within one binding a number of old favourites now obscured by changes in taste or fashion; yet others, younger than the other others, may make a discovery, if only that poetry need be none the worse for being neither egotistical nor formless.

I mentioned just now the nineteenth century as the main source of my selection, and sure enough is drawn from authors born either in its course or so soon before as to have done the larger part of their growing-up within in, between 1788 and 1888. More than this, the pieces from longer ago are very much of the sort that the nineteenth-century poetical outlook could accept without strain: Shakespeare at his most direct, Milton on his blindness, ballads, hymns, the patriotic, the sententious (https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-character-of-a-happy-life/Wotton, Gray). Thus the Elizabethan period and the years immediately following contribute more than the major part of the seventeenth century, and there is one solitary poem in the Augustan heroic couplet.

No age of course has a single poetical outlook, always half a dozen. I was talking about the kind of person of that time who was intelligent and educated without having we would now call literary tastes, who liked poetry without finding it in any way a necessity and much of whose contact with it would have been through recitation and song, both sacred and profane. What our man, or woman, required is what first verse for rendering in those ways: absolute clarity, heavy rhythms and noticeable rhymes with some break in the sense preferred at the end of the line. (Outside Shakespeare, understood to be a special case, there are only two blank-verse pieces here, both by Tennyson, a different special case) Subject-matter must suit the occasion by being public, popular, what unites the individual with some large group of his neighbours. The emotional requirement is that the reader, or hearer, be stirred and inspirited more than illuminated or moved to the gentler emotions: love poetry, for instance, can often be recited effectively, but not in the course of the kind of recitation I have described. For another set of reasons, comic poetry is likewise inappropriate.

The exclusions necessitated by all this obviously exclude a very large part of the best poetry in the language, even of that written in the nineteenth century. For instance, I have felt bound to omit Wordsworth, the poet of Nature: ‘The Solitary Reaper’ gets in because it takes an untypically detached, almost a townsman’s, view of the central figure. Shelley, Browning and Arnold are among those less than fairly represented; Charles Kingsley, Alfred Austin and Austin Dobson are not greater poets than Coleridge, Keats and (Some would add) Hopkins, who are altogether left out. Perhaps popular poetry, outside the accidental contributions of poets whose critical esteem rests on other achievements, can never be anything but what George Orwell called good bad poetry.

The phrase occurs in his entertaining and valuable review-article on Kipling, whose works he describes as ‘almost a shameful pleasure, like the taste for cheap sweets that some people secretly carry into middle life’. Orwell goes on to give other examples of good bad poetry, half of which I have included here, and remarks, accurately enough on his terms, that there was no such thing until about 1790. The characteristics of this kind of poetry, he says, are vulgarity and sentimentality, though he softens the latter term by adding: ‘ A good bad poem is a graceful monument to the obvious. It records in memorable form – for verse is a mnemonic device, among other things – some emotion which nearly every human being can share. The merit of a poem like ‘When All the World Is Young, Lad’ [‘Young and Old’] is that, however sentimental it may be, its sentiment is ‘true’ sentiment in the sense that you are bound to find yourself thinking the thought it expresses sooner or later, and then, if you happen to know the poem, it will come back into your mind and seem better than it did before,. Such poems are a kind of rhyming proverb ….’ Sentiment is usually considered different from and higher than sentimentality, and an example with almost universal appeal (which is perhaps a nice way of saying ‘vulgar’) hardly seems to deserve being called bad, even good bad. Not all popular verse, again, is in the Kipling manner; perhaps that manner deserves to be called vulgar and sentimental, though to me it does not in principle, but I can find nothing of either quality in , say, ‘The Old Squire’ 1887‘, ‘Ha’nacker Mill’ or the poems of the Great War that close the volume. Indeed, to anyone not blinkered by political prejudice, from which category I would exclude Orwell, ‘The Soldier must surely be counted one of the greatest poems of our century.

And yet … Well, I have included ‘Horatius‘ entire; I could not bear to cut so much as a single stanza; even to glance at it in the course of preparing the book sent a thrill through me; it is probably the best and most characteristic we have of military-patriotic popular verse – in it, Rome of course has the appeal of a golden-age England, though there are English notions in the ranks of Tuscany too. And yet there is something unreal, something almost ritualized about it, not vulgar not sentimental as those words are normally applied, something not of pretence but of let’s pretend. The brave days of old belong to the time when all the world was young: this is what used to be called a boy’s poem, founded on values that are few, simple and certain. They are none the less valuable for that, and certainly none the less fundamental. The distinction of Macaulay’s magnificent poem is that it enables the adult reader, or hearer, to recover in full some of the strong emotions of boyhood, an experience which is not a lapse from maturity but an endorsement of it.

For a number of reasons, a poet of our own day cannot write like that – in fact, during the 1930s, this entire literary genre quite suddenly disappeared, never to return. Such a poet would certainly lack in the first place the required skill and application. Should he possess these, he would even so find himself using a dead style and forms. Clarity, heavy rhythms, strong rhymes and the rest are the vehicles of confidence, of a kind of innocence, of shared faiths and other long-extinct states of mind. The two great themes of popular verse were the nation and the Church, neither of which, to say the least, confers much sense of community any longer. Minor themes, like admiration of or desire for a simple rustic existence, have just been forgotten. The most obvious case of it all is the disintegrative shock of the Great War.

I thought at first of grouping the poems by subject, but was defeated by a shortage both of categories and of poems that fitted squarely into one and only one. (I should perhaps explain here to readers under forty that the generous selection of war and battle pieces is due not so much to national belligerence as to the fact that their fellow-countrymen used to feel peculiarly united at such times. The feeling persisted for some years after it had become impossible to write patriotic verse.) So – the poems are arranged chronologically instead, according to the year of their authors’ births. Although this is not a perfect plan, it has the advantage of offering a view not only of literary developments but also parts of our history. Read in this way too, some poems shed an interesting, even ironical, light on those that follow them.

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Denise Levertov, “Conversion of Brother Lawrence”

I particularly love the lines “your way was not to exalt nor avoid
the Adamic legacy, you simply made it irrelevant” – which neatly summarises Brother Lawrence’s way of deceptive simplicity.

Let us enter into ourselves, Time presses.’

Brother Lawrence 1611-1691

1.

What leafless tree plunging
into what pent sky was it
convinced you Spring, bound to return i
n all its unlikelihood, was a word
of God, a Divine message?
Custom, natural reason, are everyone’s assurance;
we take the daylight for granted, the moon,
the measured tides. A particular tree, though,
one day in your eighteenth winter,
said more, an oracle. Clumsy footman,
apt to drop the ornate objects handed to you,
cursed and cuffed by butlers and grooms,
your inner life unsuspected,
you heard, that day, a more-than-green
voice from the stripped branches.
Wooden lace, a celestial geometry,
uttered more than familiar rhythms of growth.
It said By the Grace of God.
Midsummer rustled around you that wintry moment.
Was it elm, ash, poplar, a fruit-tree, your rooted
twig-angel of annunciation?

2

Out from the chateau park it sent you
(by some back lane, no doubt,
not through the wide gates of curled iron),
by ways untold, by soldier’s marches,
to the obscure clatter and heat of a monastery kitchen,
a broom’s rhythmic whisper for music,
your torment the drudgery of household ledgers. Destiny
without visible glory. ‘Time pressed.’ Among pots and pans,
heart-still through the bustle of chores,
your labors, hard as the pain in your lame leg,
grew slowly easier over the years, the years
when, though your soul felt darkened, heavy, worthless,
yet God, you discovered, never abandoned you but walked
at your side keeping pace as comrades had
on the long hard roads of war. You entered then
the unending ‘silent secret conversation,’
the life of steadfast attention.
Not work transformed you; work, even drudgery
was transformed: that discourse
pierced through its monotones, infused them w
ith streams of sparkling color.
What needed doing, you did; journeying if need be
on rocking boats, lame though you were,
to the vineyard country to purchase the year’s wine
for a hundred Brothers, laughably rolling yourself
over the deck-stacked barrels when you couldn’t
keep your footing; and managed deals with the vintners
to your own surprise, though business was nothing to you.
Your secret was not the craftsman’s delight in process,
which doesn’t distinguish work from pleasure—
your way was not to exalt nor avoid
the Adamic legacy, you simply made it irrelevant:
everything faded, thinned to nothing, beside
the light which bathed and warmed, the Presence
your being had opened to. Where it shone,
there life was, and abundantly; it touched
your dullest task, and the task was easy.
Joyful, absorbed,
you ‘practiced the presence of God’ as a musician
practices hour after hour his art:
‘A stone before the carver,’
you‘entered into yourself.

What do you want? (or, You Are What You Want)

From Gil Bailie‘s “God’s Gamble: The Gravitational Power of Crucified Love”:

“In any case, they were hardly prepared for a colloquy with the Lamb of God, the one poised to take away the sin of the world. Not wanting to make complete fools of themselves, perhaps they tried to quickly formulate questions that might at least appear to be worthy of so exalted a figure, serious questions about the Law, for instance, the weightier and more imponderable the better. In our mind’s eye we can imagine them hastily rehearsing the enigmatic puzzles they think commensurate with this man’s stature in John’s eyes. But suddenly something quite shocking happens: Jesus turns to them, and before they can get a word out, he says: “What do you want?” (Jn. 1:38).

There are many ways this question might be verbally inflected, each decisive for assessing its implications for the two men who stood for a moment speechless before Jesus. “What do you want?” “What do you want?” “What do you want?” However inflected and whatever its nuances, in the hands of the most theological evangelist, the question resounds with universal meaning, and we ourselves should ponder it further. What do we want?”

It can hardly be dismissed as merely fortuitous that the first words spoken by Jesus in the most theological and in many respects the most historically reliable of the gospels are: “What do you want?” It would not be too much to say that Jesus came into the world to help humanity come to grips with that question. We spend much or all of our lives wanting, punctuated only momentarily by fleeting moments of satisfaction, rarely pondering the implications of this gigantic fact of our existence or realizing that it is what defines our species. Other creatures don’t want as humans do; they don’t desire. They try to satisfy instinctual appetites: hunger, sexual release, exhaustion, survival.

Wanting is not what defines them as it does us. Even the mimeticism of our pre-human primate ancestors is constrained by appetite and/or limited to the immediately obtainable. We want. But what do we want? A magazine cartoon comes to mind, one depicting a small child surrounded by toys and clearly pampered by parents who are anxious to satisfy every wish of the child, who nevertheless is obviously bored by the resulting largess.

Noticing the child’s sullen dissatisfaction, the exasperated mother asks: “Well, what do you want?” To which the child, somewhat confused by the question, replies: “I want… I want… I want to want!” As Dante among others testifies, we are desire. We are creatures who have inexhaustible and insatiable wants. In truth, man’s discrete wants or desires are but kaleidoscopic refractions of the single desire to which his teeming desiderata of longings must be properly ordered if he is to flourish and find fulfillment.

Writes the Stanford neurobiologist, William Hurlbut: “Desire is essential to having a mental life at all. In California we used to say ‘you are what you eat.’ It is, perhaps, more true to say ‘you are what you want.’ Desires, more than pleasures, define and sum up personal identity.

Widespread and unconvincing assertions to the contrary notwithstanding, desire today is weak and altogether tenuous, the more tenuous the more fickle, the more fickle the less any object is desired and the more necessarily dramatized is the desire for it. Though testimonials to desire are everywhere to be found, they betoken its attenuation, not its vibrancy. The word, like so many others, has been debased as fast as have the moral constraints that once protected it from debasement. Much that passes for desire today is so ephemeral and evanescent that it must be acted upon posthaste before it dissipates or is replaced by yet another mimetic enticement. Such feeble desires are quickly recycled, each giving rise, phoenix-like, to yet another effervescent faux desire.

Girard has shown that as mimetic desire moves from model to model, with each new mediator the subject surrenders some of its psychological coherence and ontological weight. In advanced stages of this mimetic promiscuity, such as we find in Western post-modernity, the halfhearted impulses that pass for desire are likely to grow more fickle, more impatient, and more in need of external stimulants and pharmacological enhancements. All the more must such evanescent desires be flamboyantly exhibited and promptly—if perfunctorily—acted upo

The past and future of handwriting- David Rundle in the TLS

In the current TLS there is an excellent review by David Rundle of two recent books on handwriting.

Anyone who knows me, or more specifically had had to read my handwriting, will no doubt be amused to discover I am actually quite interested in handwriting. I have tried various pens, pen grips and other means to improve my scrawl. Alas, when time is short all these are abandoned and I revert to type (in every sense)

It is comforting to find out from the piece that St Thomas Aquinas also had difficult-to-read handwriting:

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Anne Trubek’s book sounds like it exemplifies a current belief that handwriting is irrelevant anyway in the digital age. I am not so sure. Quite apart from anything else, I suspect handwriting to be a skill with much far transfer. And writing is an opportunity for artistic expression, something at a premium in a homogenised, noisome culture.

Rundle is quite sceptical of Trubek’s claims, which as he points out are rather First World centric, and concludes:

Pen and paper, then, will remain because they are cheap. Meanwhile, in the West, many of us may fret over the scrawl we inflict on the page, but we can reassure ourselves that bad handwriting is not an invention of modernity: ask anybody who has tried to decipher pages written by Thomas Aquinas. He would certainly not make it into a gallery such as that Patricia Lovett provides. Her selection of scribes necessarily concentrates on those with the most skill, but enough specimens survive to remind us that few mastered that level of artistry. Many wrote less accurately, less consistently and simply less presentably. If they had been Xerox machines, they would have been the ones in urgent need of a visit from the engineer.

A volume chronicling cacography – poor handwriting – might not sell as well as one on calligraphy, but it deserves its history too, and will certainly have its future. For those who are truly latter-day Aquinases, with a natural difficulty in being legible, the keyboard is a saving grace. Others too prefer it as their medium of self-expression. Yet, it is a “self” sublimated to the font choices of the corporation whose software you use. Of course, when we write by hand, we are also confined, individuality restrained by the requirements of the script, but there is a certain licence for variation and idiosyncrasy, however badly it is executed. Many may find such latitude engenders lassitude and choose to allow the computer to decide for them. That is not a freedom available to everyone in our world – if true freedom it is.

Rundle’s Twitter feed is full of interesting and entertaining snippets from manuscripts:

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