Sunday, July 11, 2010

Hurrah For Human Hands!

When I buy books, I often buy them second hand. That suits my somewhat exotic (I guess) pattern of reading--history, biography, mythology, poetry...In a lot of cases it's buy second hand, or don't buy at all. New books in certain areas do not exist.
I am delighted when my "new" used books have been signed by their previous owners. Most likely I'll never meet them, but it expands my universe to know they are--or at least were--there. Often I sign my own books, new or old, as a way of expanding somebody else's view of things down the line.
So imagine my surprise at discovering that a previous owner's signature is regarded as a flaw in the quality of a book! For that matter, imagine my shock on learning that handwriting--with a pen or pencil--is considered passe, and is on its way out. Only keyboarding, formerly known as typing, is considered essential. This sort of encapsulates the situation I started with. Evidently if you want to put your name in a book, type a label.
Right-wing commentators have taken up the cause of handwriting in general, and this worries me. How does it happen that I agree with THEM on anything?
Nevertheless, this seems one case in which the Right is right.
Not only literature, but all the arts, were constructed with human hands. Not hands hammering away on keyboards, unless the keyboards are of musical instruments and those working at them are assembling a prelude or a fugue or playing a riff. But hands equipped with pens, pencils, brushes, chisels--tools that take the mind and soul where computer keyboards by themselves cannot go. (Though a blog like this proves that, in the right circumstances, computers can be liberating. )
But in the nature of things, computer keyboards come later. The tools you need in the beginning are the basic ones, the ones that still will work if the power goes out. Hand tools that have served our species for many centuries.
In the name of your own creativity, take up your pen and WRITE. Or draw, if that impulse moves you more.
And while you are at it, buy a used book signed by its previous owner.

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