The Paper Trails no.1

25 August 2010

The word “get” ruffles my feathers. “Get” is coarse, ill-mannered and greedy. I hope to come across it one day, in a line by Chaucer, bristling with power and birdsong. Until then I struggle.

So for me WYSIWYG (an acronym for What You See Is What You Get) has never been a positive concept. I am not charmed by seeing my writing presented to me as a drag queen in a tangle and feel obliged to be grateful.

WYSIWYG claims to perform a little magic and show the future in your looking-glass monitor: your content styled and turned out as if it were published; as if there were no processing to be done. But the lie does not stick. Processing is the (invisible) wizard. Where we thought we had control, we have none, where we expected to produce an elegant italic leg, we have stubbornly small caps instead.

The faux paper bears no yellowing tint, its corners do not bend with continued use. There is no doodling in corners because those areas cannot be reached without constructing a table and clambering across it.

Trapped in this world where expression is free but font style is not, where the page itself is a restricted area, we can but gaze on the unfettered note-taking and creativity of old, where font and slant and smudge are still vibrant imprints of their inspired authors.

manuscript page of Samuel Beckett's novel "Watt"

A page of manuscript from "Watt" by Samuel Beckett

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