Chirography Tells A Story

In English 203 we are reading a series of poems by Percival Everett called re: f(gesture).  I purchased the book in August with the rest of my textbooks and didn’t open it until we began reading it in class.  When I opened the book, I noticed a signature on the title page. Written over the black printed name of Percival Everett on the page, there was a blue slash mark with Percival Everett’s signature written below it.  My initial thought regarding the signature was something along the lines of oh this is so Percival Everett of him.  Of course, Percival Everett would cross his own name out on a publication of his own work, just to rewrite his name over it in his own handwriting.  I thought this was quite an interesting way for an author to autograph their own literary work. I did question, however, if this was an authentic signature from Percival Everett, considering I purchased the book off Amazon, and nothing within the description of the purchase mentioned that it was a signed copy.  I tried researching pictures of his signature in his other publications. I only found one picture on the internet, but it did look the same as the signature in my copy of re: f(gesture).  I decided to show Beth and asked if this was a real signature.  She said that she has a signed copy as well and that it did indeed looks identical to the signature in my copy.  I expressed my interest in the bizarre way that he autographs his works and she gave me the inspiration to begin researching chirography.  From this research, I also began researching aspects of graphology.

Chirography refers to the study of penmanship and handwriting, and graphology is the “analysis of physical characteristics and patterns of handwriting claiming to identify the writer, indicating the psychological state at the time of writing, or evaluating personality characteristics”(Longman Dictionary of Psychiatry).  It is sometimes considered a form of a pseudoscience because the mind reflects the style of writing a person practices. People tend to develop their own styles of handwriting throughout their lives. Some of these style choices are conscious and some are subconscious. Life experiences may change a person’s handwriting, or a person can decide to write a certain way.  Aspects of a person’s character can also be discovered by looking at their handwriting. A chirography analyst or graphology analyst can decipher characteristics such as gender, the mood of the writer, and even some aspects of personality. The choices people make within their handwriting can reflect the way they feel about certain problems within their lives or society.  While analyzing Percival Everett’s autograph I noticed several characteristics. First, he crossed out his printed name on the title page. Percival Everett does not support the concept of labels. A name is considered a label in Everett’s mind. His name appears printed on the cover of a book and can be considered a label. By crossing out his own name within a book, he is crossing out a label that another person gave to him.  After crossing out his printed name, he re-writes his name below the printed one. This demonstrates Everett re-labeling himself. He is able to define the way the label represents him by changing the way his name appears on paper. He uses his own handwriting rather than a computer-printed text to show that he is a real person, rather than just an author. 

One of our course epigraphs in English 203 reflects this concept of Percival Everett giving himself his own label.

“Thank you,” I said. “I came back to this place to find something, to connect with something lost, to reunite if not with my whole self, then with a piece of it. What I’ve discovered is that this thing is not here. In fact, it is nowhere. I have learned that my name is not my name. It seems you all know me and nothing could be further from the truth and let you know me better than I know myself, perhaps better than I can know myself. My mother is buried not far from this auditorium, and there are no words on her headstone. As I glance out now, as I feel the weight of this trophy in my hands, as I stand like a specimen before these strangely unstrange faces, I know finally what should be written on that stone. It should say what mine will say:

I AM NOT MYSELF TODAY.”

 — Percival Everett 

Throughout this statement Everett makes the statement, “I have learned that my name is not my name.”  This is evident within his autographs. Although the print says his name, he doesn’t believe that it is truly his name.  One is never truly themselves when it is another person who is assigning them a label. He also learned this fact from several years of being a published author.  Members of society assign labels to people who have any sort of fame because they are never viewed as real people. The media is to blame for this. In order to stray away from this assumption, Everett has to make societal statements in any way he can, including the way he signs his books.  Handwriting can give people a sort of control over some situations. Percival Everett’s influence within this culture reflects a person using chirography to gain control over a social situation.

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