Conservative blogs are currently obsessed with Jack Lew's shitty signature. The president even addressed the "controversy" during the press conference announcing the choice. Setting aside the fact that this is all pointless harrumphing—I'm sure that if Lew gets the job, he won't half-ass the signature that winds up on every piece of paper currency in the United States—it's an interesting illustration of how far good handwriting has fallen in the public's esteem. Handwriting feels like a conservative issue. While this is obviously a partisan issue, it's hard to imagine liberal blogs getting this outraged about someone's penmanship.
Over the weekend, I read a book called The Missing Ink: The Lost Art of Handwriting, by British novelist Philip Hensher. It wasn't very good. There were interesting bits here and there—a brief history of modern cursive, a discussion of the importance of handwriting in the novels of Dickens—but too much of the book is given over to anecdotes that feel more like the rantings of a prematurely old man. (I especially disliked Hensher's stories about how the dumb students in his college classes don't understand the importance of handwriting; even though he doesn't name the young people, it still feels like a breach of trust.)
I'm clearly biased, here. My handwriting is, and has always been, truly awful. I resent the fact that I was told that learning cursive was an important part of becoming an adult with a job, when I haven't written a single thing in cursive in well over a decade. But as someone who loves paper and printed books and getting and sending letters, I'm obviously in the persuadable camp. Hensher doesn't try to coax any readers to his side, though. The assumption seems to be that readers of The Missing Ink are already upset that handwriting has become a diminished thing, so the book feels lazy, lacking in structure and flitting from one aspect to the next with the general feeling that the readers will follow no matter how uninteresting the next topic may be. If your book is supposed to be about "the lost art of" anything at all, shouldn't a primary concern be in convincing interested parties into keeping that art alive? Rather than mocking Lew, shouldn't those who value penmanship try to sway him into giving a damn?