The Art of the Word
In today’s overwrought political climate, both in the U.S. and abroad, it can seem as though our capacity for intelligent dialogue has disappeared. Mystified by this trend, we dedicate this issue to how we use language—to understand one another, to record history, and to define our spiritual faith. In our second section, we explore a Venetian island where fine lace is still made by hand; and, for your summer planning, we offer a guide to America’s best craftsmanship schools and workshops.
With only a quick glance at today’s overheated political climate—the balkanized geography between red and blue states, a bombastic former president, the strident social media culture, all culminating in an attack on the U.S. Capitol—you get an unmistakable message: We don’t know how to talk with each other anymore, let alone build common ground. An expert in linguistics explores our new argumentative culture to find ways to revive the craft of conversation, so that Americans of different beliefs can start believing in each other again.
By MICHAEL ERARD
For centuries, spiritual faith has been shaped in part by how its scribes form the letters of their sacred texts. This is particularly the case with Judaism. We visit with three scribes in three very different corners of Jewish faith—Jerusalem; New York City’s Orthodox neighborhood in Brooklyn; and the liberal enclave of Berkeley, California—to understand why people still go to all this trouble. Along the way, we walk across the religious aisle to the Muslim world to see what happens to the Urdu language of India and Pakistan when its script gets computerized.
By BRYCE T. BAUER
With LYNN HOLSTEIN, TODD OPPENHEIMER, and ALI ETERAZ
On the leafy edge of residential San Francisco, a simple Greek revival building that once served as a church for Christian Scientists has been transformed into the library of the future. Behold the world’s only Internet Archive—home to 11 million books and texts, 279 billion web pages, 100,000 software programs, and 120 statuettes, just to name a few of its holdings.
By TIM REDMOND
Photography by JESSICA BRANDI LIFLAND
One would think that the invention of digital lettering for our commercial signs—on everything from shops to billboards—was nothing but an industrial step forward. As it’s turned out, yesteryear’s signs, which were all painted by hand, offered a beauty and personality that today’s automated version has been unable to duplicate; more important, a hand-made sign lasts much longer. Our correspondent explores what’s left of the old tradition, and stumbles on small but lively seeds of revival.
By LAURA FRASER
Photography by ANDREW SULLIVAN
Other Topics In This Issue
In Burano—a tiny island 4 miles from the city of Venice—the ancient art of ultra-fine, hand-sewn lace somehow remains alive. And so does the equally ancient culture surrounding it. Our correspondent visits with the master craftswomen of Burano to learn their history, their secrets, and the prospects for their future.
By ERLA ZWINGLE
Across the U.S., scores of schools and other programs offer courses and workshops in everything from boat-building to glass blowing to knife making. But no one has created an informed guide to all these courses—until now. If you’ve always wanted to become a better woodworker, make and smoke your own sausage, or fix your grandfather’s antique violin, here are detailed descriptions of the nine best programs we could find.
By NATALIE JONES
Photos courtesy of the schools