Saturday, January 5, 2013

A long stroll with yours truly, and Hensher's missing ink

A bust of Leonard Woolf in Monk's
House garden, Lewes, East Sussex
Philosophy in the Garden is reviewed in The Australian today: 'Ground prepared for meandering discourse'. In a relaxed, 'summer reading' state-of-mind, Miriam Cosic writes:
Young is an engaging writer. His technique is fluent and stylish and never marred by cliches or cliched thinking. 
He is sincere, a great relief from the ocean of irony in which we live, and intellectually questing, a relief from that other ocean of schmaltzy platitude. His gardens are a device to get into serious meditation on the purpose of life, the good life as Aristotelians would have it, and on lessons taught by the often turbulent lives of writers who influenced Western society.
Cosic has criticisms. Some are well-founded (for some reason I did call Schopenhauer 'Danish'--very strange) other less so ('authoress' was Austen's own word, hence the initial quotation marks).

As for telling not showing, I stand my my narrative and behind-the-scenes research, but recognise that some readers will ask for more evidence--after the walking and talking, perhaps:
Reading Young's book is like taking a long stroll with a charming and expansive friend in the cool of a summer evening.  
(Photo: David Sellman/National Trust)
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I also have a review in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald today, of Philip Hensher's very enjoyable The Missing Ink: 'Why the ink's not yet dry'.

Hensher is no grumbling Luddite, but he rightfully laments the demise of handwriting, and highlights what's lost. While some arguments are better than others, Hensher's fluency, intelligence and character are engaging. I write:
Hensher can be surprisingly sentimental (''Ink runs in our veins'') and huffy, but his refusal to censor his impressions adds to the book's portrait of an intense and fascinating personality. He contains multitudes. It is this portrait of the author, and his devotion to handwriting's palpable intimacy, that makes the book so enjoyable. 
Hensher argues for, but also conveys, the value of slow, spontaneous pleasures. He also fills his book with others' memories: a novelist remembers a ''dapper, sarcastic, chain-smoking'' headmaster. 
Without fetishising German fountain pens and French paper, Hensher makes a compelling case for manual, artful pursuits and against generic automation.
If you're keen on pens, paper and ink (as I am--see 'fetishising' above), or want to better understand those who are, Hensher's book is the perfect companion.

1 comment:

aquaduck said...

Hi Damon,
missed your article on the ABC on Friday, got me thinking...anyway, if your interested I have responded via my latest blog post. I am no expert but I think its legal to copy links. If you find my posts annoying or not worthwhile then just let me know. The problem with the abc blogs is the short life span & moderations.