It’s hopeless I’m a slut for the New York Times.

It seems to be the thing to do, hitting Dwight Garner over the head with his corporation, but nevertheless he is posting some original stuff the rest of us are not catching, like this:

…written a week or two ago by Kieran Healy, an assistant professor of Sociology at the University of Arizona, on an academic group blog called Crooked Timber.

Healy’s short post was called “The Last Typing Wife,” and here’s some of that he had to say:

Question: what is the latest – i.e., most recent – example you know of an academic’s first book where, in the acknowledgments, the author thanks his wife … for typing and retyping the manuscript with great patience, forbearance, accuracy, and so on? … Up until a certain point, the endlessly patient and also busily typing wife was a fixture in them. But no longer. How precisely, I wonder, can her extinction be dated?

Healy continued:

My hypotheses are: (1) The typing wife disappeared earlier than the typing employee, but (1a), The typing employee has also now disappeared. (2) Things must have been in decline for a long time (typewriters are not exactly a new technology, and then women started going to graduate school on their own account), but the big drop-off comes some time in the 1980s, as cheap computers and word-processors arrive. I suspect specimens continued to appear into the 1990s, however. (3) The typing wife may have disappeared from acknowledgments faster than actual wives doing actual typing disappeared in practice. (4) I expect variance across fields due mostly for reasons of technological affinity. But I’m not sure how fine-grained this is.

Healy’s post about typing wives drew some excellent comments, which are worth reading for their own sake. One of them even digs deeply into what was apparently a mini-scandal surrounding the writer Wendell Berry’s typing wife.

Yes, that was quite the kerfuffle, wasn’t it?  Wendell Berry hates computers, as do I, today, since I cannot spend my "mandatory paperwork time" doing paperwork with malfunctioning paperwork software.  So I sink further into a morass of overdue case notes, and I read the blogs and the comments, one of which points us to this amusing acknowledgements page.

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