Story Title: The Scriptological Review: A Last Letter from the Editor
Author: Tania James
From the collection Aerogrammes
One of the most common storylines in all of fiction is that of the son trying to reconnect with a lost father. Classical examples include Telemachus’ journey to find Odysseus and Perseus’ quest to reunite with his father and resume his place as rightful heir. Sometimes the father is already beyond reaching, as is the case with contemporary classics like Thomas Pynchon’s V., Graham Swift’s Shuttlecock, and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Incedibly Loud and Extremely Close. Tania James’ short story The Scriptological Review fits well into the Son-Father tradition but carries with it two distinctions: 1) it’s written by a woman, and 2) in this case, the object the son obsesses over isn’t his father’s writings, but his father’s handwriting itself.
The main character Vijay, on the outset of The Scriptological Review, seems like a pathetic figure. It’s first explained that he is the editor of a magazine devoted to the study of handwriting, only to subvert his achievement a few paragraphs later by explaining his magazine’s HQ is his mom’s basement, and that he publishes his work with her money. Then, in a few short pages, Tania James craftily makes us feel for her protagonist, as it’s suggested that his whole infatuation with handwriting is his way of trying to understand the life of his late father.
What attracted me most to The Scriptorium Review was the specificity of it. The story is peppered throughout with terminology artfully plucked from a scriptology textbook. I had to laugh when I read the line “Do certain types of t’s, like certain disorders, run in the family?”
Apart from the tragic undertone and the bittersweet resolution of The Scriptology Review, the story is worth reading for the delightfully clever way that Tania James reminds us that sometimes you don’t have to read between the lines: what’s on the page is important enough.
The Scriptological Review: A Last Letter from the Editor, can be found in Aerogrammes by Tania James.
You may also like Pulse by Julian Barnes
If you’re looking for something else to read, check out my book A Rapturous Occasion.
What is your opinion of The Scriptological Review by Tania James?