Words

When I was a little chap I think I wanted to be a bigger chap. Bigger as in older. Older as in more mature: an individual with the trappings of adulthood, as the concept made sense to me at the time. This was a selective notion. I may have wanted a house of my own or my own room to be bigger and more removed from other people, but I can’t remember that. I don’t think I wanted to be more independent, not then anyway, but I wanted to have a shiny British sports car in my garage and stuffed animal heads on the wall and ornate wood panelling and floor to ceiling bookcases, as these things seemed sophisticated to me. I may have wanted decanters for whiskey and brandy, not so much because you can drink whiskey and brandy out of them, but because that is what stylish and cultivated people had. Or had in my mind, which was a bit like an Evelyn Waugh novel (I saw the famous TV adaptation of Brideshead Revisited at an early age and it left a lasting impression on my soft little brain).

None of this is unusual really. The only difference is in degree and age. Some younger people are desperate to get a car loan or to wear makeup or smoke, as they think that is what adults do and that’s why they want to do those things too. I had no desire to own a surfboard or to be able to create a piece of furniture from pieces of wood, but I can see the attraction of both of these pastimes now.

When I was younger I practised my signature. It was a combination of my mother’s and my father’s, with a bit of a twist, and I would write it again and again, as it seemed important for me to be ready to write my name like this, the way it ought to be done, to do it the way adults do it when they produce one of these properly on an official document or in an autograph book. And I got good at my signature.

And when I was somewhat older, it sort of crept up on me, but I realised what was the most important thing to me. Truly the most important thing, at the time, of all, was writing, by writers, in books. I had been reading for many years of course, and had completed school, and the seed of this fascination had obviously been sewed much earlier, but I was at university when I realised that my highest ambition was to become a writer of academic books, on occasionally arcane subjects, which were so well written that a popular audience would find them and would appreciate the work of the author (me). Well, that hasn’t happened yet, but a deeper and wider love formed the basis of this mild fantasy, and that is a love of the book, and the type in books, when it is done properly. When paragraphs line up the way they are supposed to and indentations are used properly, when punctuation is employed in the correct manner, when a conversation is being recounted, and in obvious ways, like when capital letters are used in the appropriate places. I love page numbers at the bottom of the page or the top, and fonts and differently sized type. I love footnotes. I love italics.

Perhaps some of this feeling arose when I was first typing some of my essays, and was both appalling and abject in my efforts to do a respectable job, like the other essays I saw and read, in books, by proper academics.

I love type. I love words in books, written by proper authors, and that’s one of the reasons I want to be a proper author: to be responsible for the proper arrangement of type in a book. For those words, in that adult form, to be mine.

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Published in: on November 29, 2012 at 7:30 pm  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I love the last paragraph – I loved the rest, too. But the last hit home.
    I also used to practice my signature. When you’re a kid it seems like such an important thing to know. Now I’m older I barely sign anything.

    • Why thank you!
      My signature, when I rarely use it, has a tendency to change so much that it doesn’t look like my signature at all.

  2. I practised my signature too, made it look like my mum’s cause we had the same middle name, and surname, just different initial so essentially I stole her signature.

    Also, have you seen this? http://www.openculture.com/2012/09/the_evolution_of_f_scott_fitzgeralds_signature_from_5_years_old_to_21.html

    Knowing about your penchant (or preference?) for one F Scott.

  3. That is simpy wonderful. Thank you.


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