SEX, LIES, AND HANDWRITING by Michelle Dresbold
Free Press, 2008, 978-0743288101, 304 pages, Trade Paperback, $13.00
In Sex, Lies, and Handwriting, Michelle Dresbold (of the newspaper column The Handwriting Doctor) introduces us to the discipline of handwriting analysis. Though not a complete “course” on the subject by any means, she does touch on a few basics, such as the upper, middle, and lower zones, and the elements of the personal I. In this book she focuses largely on handwriting elements that one should consider suspect, using her experience as a handwriting profiler in criminal investigations and a few famous police cases as examples.
Now, I’ve always considered handwriting analysis (or graphology) an intriguing topic, but it’s not something I’ve thought about beyond its inclusion in the occasional detective drama. However, reading Dresbold’s book has made the subject all the more interesting, and now I’m curious enough to continue researching it. This has a lot to do with her writing style. When I stumbled upon the book in the New Age section (an odd place to shelve it, in my opinion) and read a few pages out of curiosity, I couldn’t help but be hooked. Dresbold’s writing is conversational and really includes the reader in the process of learning about handwriting analysis. I can imagine another writer attempting this same sort of book and failing to make the material as appealing. Dresbold, however, is never boring. In fact, I turned the pages just as quickly as I would any suspense novel. The end of a chapter didn’t entice me to stop–I had to keep going to find out what I might learn next.
I particularly enjoyed reading her comparisons between various criminals and their handwriting. From Ted Bundy to Bonnie and Clyde to Jack the Ripper (yes, she does indeed postulate on his true identity), each of her analyses were fascinating to read. I was also intrigued by the section on the effects of illness on handwriting. Dresbold says that she can tell a headache is eminent by the odd changes in her signature. In that case, I may start watching my own handwriting for signs of an oncoming migraine–the forewarning would be a godsend.
The only aspect of this book that I disagree with is the section on the “underhanded I.” Now, I’m clearly not a practitioner of graphology, nor do I know from where its rules are derived. But according to Dresbold, a typical person writes a (cursive) I from the right to the left–in other words, starting on the lower right side, drawing the I, and ending somewhere in the mid-left (generally) by making the little ledge. This, she says, is a “copybook I,” whereas drawing it from the other direction–ledge first and then ending on the bottom right–is the “underhanded I,” which is considered more unusual.
I’m not sure which “copybook” she means, because when I was taught cursive, we used the Palmer system, which says you start with the ledge on the left and end on the bottom right. Now, I can’t speak for Palmer’s reasons, but this is simply how I learned to make my letters in the third grade, and that’s how I’ve been doing it ever since. And in any case, it makes far more sense to start on the left and end on the right. That’s the direction in which the English language is written. Writing from right to left seems irregular to me as it disturbs the flow of writing. One of the main elements of cursive is that you lift your hand from the paper as rarely as possible. To write your I from right to left, you have to lift your hand and move it back to the correct position instead of simply ending there in the first place. A technicality, I know, but other than this I can see the logic in everything Dresbold says.
Sex, Lies, and Handwriting is a fascinating book and easy to read. Who knows–maybe it will inspire someone out there to take up the practice of graphology.