I don’t know what Hugo Lindgren has in mind for /The New York Times Magazine/ but I’m not filled with any optimism at the removal of “On Lamguage” and of the columns by Virginia Heffernan and Randy Cohen. These have been my steady companions for years, columns I knew would reward even if the features left me flat.
I don’t follow the news biz closely enough to know the scuttlebutt about what is planned to replace these cornerstones of a successful (from the perspective of a satisfied reader) weekly magazine. Surely, /surely/ there is some exciting innovation which justifies this zero tolerance approach rather than a gradual move, replacing these treasures one at a time. Otherwise this will be remembered as one of the most significant blunders of the early twenty first century media.
When Helvetica—the trend, the font, the film, the MoMA exhibition—was the rage, Slate published a piece asking writers about their favorite fonts and those queried had cultivated preferences at the ready; Courier, mostly, since those writers who may not fetishize the pen fetishize the typewriter instead.
I’m going to ignore (for now) the central argument of Nell Boescenstein’s post, The Pen, Mightier, and make a quick comment about the quote above. Because I’m a Courier guy, a decision which I came to not lightly and not after years of fiddling unproductively with choosing a good writing font.1 And I’m also a typewriter guy, but the two facts are not, in fact, related.
You choose Courier as your writing font on your computer not because it looks like a typewriter but because it does not look like a book. It does not, when printed out, look like what you hope to see your writing look like someday. It looks workmanlike and inelegant. The letters do not mesh nicely with a grace that was, thirty years ago, available only to professionally typeset work; every letter sits in its own box exactly the same as every other letter, implying that those letters are moveable, are still in play. Using Courier says that a work is still in progress.
There’s reason to use other fonts, too. And there are, indeed, some who like Courier for its typewriteryness, but I can’t imagine that they’re the real majority.
Of all the annoying wastes of my time, font-fiddling ranks among the most frustrating. I was like some pathetic addict, but the source of my addiction was something that no one but me would ever see. It was about as beneficial as combing the hair on my back. ↩
It seems appropriate that the first item posted is the first page of the first draft of David Foster Wallace’s most important book. OK, it seems more than a little presumptuous, but it is still a nice example of a first draft page. And what do we have here? Indeed, this is my firstly drafted post for what I hope might someday be important, too.1