Saturday, January 12, 2008

Writing and Farting?

Another bit of idiocy - this time of the English sort:

"Most people enjoy the sight of their own handwriting as they enjoy the smell of their own farts. Much as I loathe the typewriter, I must admit that it is a help in self-criticism. Typescript is so impersonal and hideous to look at that, if I type out a poem, I immediately see defects which I missed when I looked through the manuscript. When it comes to a poem by somebody else, the severest test I know is to write it out in longhand. The physical tedium of doing this ensures that the slightest defect will reveal itself: the hand constantly looking for an excuse to stop." -- W. H. Auden, The Dyer's Hand and other Essays . New York: Vintage, 1908, p. 17. (But it comes to you via Michael Heim (1987) Electric Language: A Philosophical Study of Word Processing . New Haven & London: Yale University Press, p. 193.)

Perhaps I am perverse, but I can't say that I have ever particularly enjoyed the smell of farts -- be they my own or those of others. I could perhaps go so far as to say that I tolerate my own better than those of others. But that's it. As far as handwriting and typewriting is concerned, it's the reverse, i.e. I tolerate my own (or anyone else's) writing more when it is typed or on the screen rather than when it is hand-written. There is less to get in the way, and this is useful not just in self-criticism. In this case, just as with smells, less is more.

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