A Rigorous Analysis of The Alphabet


Initially, “D” looks like a contender for the Best-Letter title, but upon examination its flaws come forefront. It is pleasantly asymmetrical and a satisfying character to pen, but considering the volume of negative space it carves it is ultimately too simple, too crude. “D” is a $7 Australian merlot.

Contrast “D” with the supple and erotic “B”: at first glance the two appear similar, but the 3rd stroke of “B” adds a vertical subtlety lacking in “D.” “B” evokes Jungian archetypes of the fertility mother, and we are drawn to this primal image (“W” and “V” call similar references, but those abominations aren’t worth discussion). “B” fails because it is too complex; it attempts to reconcile the vertical with horizontal, which is commendable, but it leaves the issue unresolved.

“I” and “U” are both visually harmonious, but they each have significant flaws. “I” calls to mind Periclean Greece — beautiful and exacting, but too rigid, too programmatic — intuitively we know the Best Letter must encapsulate a kernel of the loose, the uncontrollable. What “I” lacks, “U” possesses in excess; “U” looks like it’s about to topple over, drunk, rolling around the lines of the page, falling on top of other letters and forming strange phonemes.

“T” is scientifically the superior character. It is strong and gestural, but through its simplicity of form maintains a singular pastoral quality. Also, its homonym is delicious.

Filed under Non-Fiction on October 21st, 2003