"A finished work is exactly that, requires resurrection." ~ John Cage
May 15, 2013 6:35 PM   Subscribe

This reminded me obliquely of Borges' Pierre Menard Author of the Quixote.
posted by shivohum at 6:41 PM on May 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

If you're interested in this project or this type of writing process, I would direct you to the writings of Kenneth Goldsmith.
posted by Fizz at 6:45 PM on May 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

...Laura Glazer, a photographer who has documented the project since its start...has become friends with Patterson over the course of some 4,000 pictures...

And yet all we're given are eight terrible photos taken by an AP photographer? No, no, that won't do at all. Here's the project on Glazer's website: Serenity of Knowing. The AP shouldn't have run this story without getting the rights to this photo, which is worth at least their 891 words.
posted by cribcage at 6:50 PM on May 15, 2013 [11 favorites]

Thanks for that cribcage.

It might be better to just remove the AP link and post what cribcage linked to instead.
posted by Fizz at 6:51 PM on May 15, 2013

Now I want a font of Phillip Patterson's handwriting.
posted by roger ackroyd at 7:10 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I didn't even remember how to make some of these letters.

Before you take the LSAT, you're required to hand-copy a paragraph declaring your identity. ("I am the person whose name appears above, I won't cheat," etc.) The rules say that it needs to be written in cursive, so they can theoretically match your handwriting if necessary later. I hadn't written cursive in years. That was possibly the hardest part of the test. It took me...awhile to copy that paragraph. Fortunately I wasn't the only one in the room who had trouble.
posted by cribcage at 7:16 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Pigma Micron. I loved that pen...
posted by ovvl at 7:29 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Red-Headed League
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:41 PM on May 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'm curious how he got the pages bound afterward. It appears that the bound leaves are folded, with the binding using threads through the creases/folds. Presumably that means that when he wrote on the pages, the pages were double-leafed?* But it doesn't appear from the other photos that the papers were double-leafed. Could anyone enlighten me on how this was done?

It's a beautiful work and one I'm sure the church (or someone who inherits the book after them) will treasure it potentially for centuries to come.

*Pardon the lack of appropriate bookbinding terminology.
posted by darkstar at 7:50 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ah, I stand corrected. That second photo in the story clearly shows the page is doubled. Which means he also had to keep track of which page was which as he transcribed.

Pretty cool.
posted by darkstar at 7:54 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Before you take the LSAT, you're required to hand-copy a paragraph declaring your identity. ("I am the person whose name appears above, I won't cheat," etc.) The rules say that it needs to be written in cursive, so they can theoretically match your handwriting if necessary later. I hadn't written cursive in years.

Weird — I don't remember that happening when I took the LSAT (in 2003). Wouldn't it work better to just let everyone use their natural handwriting? Otherwise, anyone who isn't used to writing in cursive has a plausible excuse for why the cursive sample on the LSAT doesn't look like their handwriting.
posted by John Cohen at 8:22 PM on May 15, 2013

Leaves me in mind of one of the best pieces of advice I ever received in relation to writing in the humanities - everything you write is part of a conversation. Everything.

When you're publishing, your work becomes part of longue durée discourse and debates and factional arguments that echo through the ages - sometimes thousands of voices clamouring at once, sometimes solitary scribes barely raising a whisper, their work never destined to be read.

Yet when you're engaged in the seemingly solitary activities of research, taking notes, contemplation and thought, writing first drafts, you're still having a conversation. Only it's with yourself. You're constructing something not just intended to later form part of a stance in grand debates shouted between ivory towers, but developing a personal relationship with the texts and the knowledge that form part of your discipline.

You are, in short, engaging in the very intimate act of using the existing corpus of work as a focal point that provides you with a basis for internal dialogue. It's a process that in allows you to better know thyself.

And this guy, not religious, not really aiming to become religious, appears to be deriving something just like that from his work. The product is something that's beautiful, not just as an artefact, but in what it represents for him.
posted by Ahab at 8:46 PM on May 15, 2013 [7 favorites]

Oh my. I supposed he was working from the 1769 standardized KJV still in use. But this photo—thanks, cribcage—of Phillip Paterson's beautiful hands at 1 Corinthians 9 shows he is using the original 1611 KJV. Hard core.
1769: "For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more."

1611: "For though I bee free from all men, yet haue I made my selfe seruant vnto all, that I might gaine the more."
posted by gregoreo at 9:52 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Its old magic.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:54 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is an oddly-timed post in that I, this morning, started my second hand transcription of the Tao Te Ching. Of course, because of the brevity of taoist scripture, it's an altogether less daunting project, but I am the child of the buzzing, distracted, haywire epoch, and of all the spiritual and philosophical systems I've studied and attempted to practice, taoism is the one that found a place and stayed.

Last time, it was a gift. I collected hand-laid papers and stout black cord and glue, carefully cut and folded and pasted and stitched and made a little book, then spent eighty-one days transferring pages from the Tao Te Ching to the book in my lousy handwriting and picking from translations according to the version that meant the most to me, or felt the most genuine when read aloud. There are all sorts of problems with a book in translation, but I'm no purist, and I know the right words when they curl and reach and turn to threads in the folds of my brain and tendrils of roots in my heart, pulling from the source.

That one, I gave to a love, and I do not know how much it means, even now, but sometimes, the careful repetition of strokes and curves, lines and dots, cutting down the old lanes over and over, is enough.

This thing, and these words, have changed me.

This morning, I started my birthday with a fresh book, made by hand in a slightly different method and made with more room, because this one is for me, and needs space for more than just one grand idea.

My handwriting fills me with shame, but handwriting is not the project, and my book is a little off-kilter, bound slightly to a edge that's a bit too wide, and I did not tie up the individual signatures in the book with the beautiful knots from the instructions because my fingers cannot seem to make that magic. My pen is just the old yellow Schaeffer cartridge fountain pen I bought in 1980 because it seemed like a grand contrast to the glum familiarity of ballpoints and pencils, and it is neither distinct nor valuable. My grasp, even, of taoism, is possibly weak, probably wrong, and always informed by the gulf between the origin of the philosophy and the life I lead, but when it feels right, I believe it to be right.

The simplicity of the thing, of the unnamable thing, is why I stopped searching for a path, finding my feet already in the middle of one that reaches back into memory and forward into uncertainty.

I can feel the pen in my hand, and it is different than when I am writing a grocery list or a collection of ideas reserved for work or play. I can feel the pen in my hand, and the room is quieter and noisier at once. The nib of the old pen makes a gentle scratching sound on the page, and I hold the source in my free hand and read aloud. I can hear the birds outside and the chuffy whir of the fan in my window and I have music on speakers turned down low enough that it just drifts in now and then, like sparks carried on the breeze. I can feel the pen in my hand when I am relaxed, and when I let myself get caught in the traps of the mundane, I can feel the tension there, tight in the palm, and my handwriting gets smaller, more jagged, and less free, and I know when I am straying off the path.

Loosen the grip. Let the flow carry you. Let go of all else, just for now.

I reach the end of the page, both in the original and my transcription, and go back to read it through, out loud, to myself and the room.

"The tao that can be expressed is not the eternal Tao…"

I cap the pen, close the book, and leave both where I can find them.

In eighty days, I will be finished, and this book I will keep.

It isn't much, and still it is more than enough.
posted by sonascope at 6:30 AM on May 16, 2013 [9 favorites]

sonascope: wao!
posted by grubi at 8:39 AM on May 16, 2013

but seriously, sonascope: as I read about this guy and his effort with the Bible, I thought "I should do that with the Tao Te Ching." OBVS you beat me to it.
posted by grubi at 8:40 AM on May 16, 2013

Inspired by this post, I just did it with the Heart Sutra, and it was very satisfying. Not quite the same scale, obviously, but there's something very contemplative about it. Also, I too have terrible handwriting, and the effort to focus on making it look nice was good meditation.

It was also an excuse to use the Nemosine fountain pen and Rhodia notepad I got for my birthday
posted by Elementary Penguin at 6:27 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thank you for this post, Fizz, and for the further link, cribcage. And Sonascope - that's beautiful.
posted by Huw at 3:45 AM on May 18, 2013

Transcribing the sutras by hand is an ancient and venerable act of devotion. I remember when I was taking some calligraphy classes in Japan, the instructor said that since writing kanji artistically was so difficult, good handwriting is a sign that you are a good person. In ancient times, accomplished calligraphers were almost exclusively scholars or monks who had time to devote to transcription.
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:04 PM on May 18, 2013

good handwriting is a sign that you are a good person

Well, I like to think I'm a good person regardless.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 4:45 PM on May 18, 2013

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