Lord of the Wedge
Posted on July 24, 2014
I didn’t know it at the time of bidding on my Sharp ZX-500, but it turns out the same model of typewriter was used by William Golding to write the second draft and subsequent drafts of his novel Close Quarters.
Close Quarters was a sequel to Rites of Passage and the second volume of Golding’s To the Ends of the Earth Sea Trilogy – three novels that follow the emotional education and moral growth of an aristocratic young man named Edmund Talbot during an ocean voyage to Australia in 1812.
Journeying to Australia is a recurrent theme in Golding’s work – in addition to The Ends of the Earth trilogy, in Darkness Visible, one of his two central characters – Matty, a small boy who emerges from the ashes of the Blitz at the start of the novel, later expatriates to, and repatriates from, Australia.
Golding visited Australia in 1974 and retraced the footsteps of his Cornish grandfather, Thomas Curnoe, who had worked as a mining engineer in the goldfields of Ballarat.
A preface to Golding’s second novel The Inheritors written by John Carey (also quoted in this interesting article written for the New Statesman: Seeing Like a Neanderthal) provides an insight into the evolution (pun intended) of the author’s writing process:
The first draft is written in a green Bishop Wordsworth’s School exercise book using schoolmasterly red Biro.
When pressed by his publisher to produce a draft of The Inheritors, Golding wrote explaining that he could not send the manuscript because his handwriting was illegible “even to my wife”. He promised to type it out over Christmas and send it then. “I’ve learnt to compose at the typewriter, which is a help,” he added. It was a help. He rewrote extensively as he typed, and the many differences between manuscript and typescript changed the meaning of The Inheritors.
It would be nice to know what model of typewriter Golding was “composing” with back in the mid-to-late ’50s. What we do know, is that by 1985 a Sharp ZX-500 held pride of place on his desk…
An Adler Electric 21D has been relegated to the floor and sits in a nook between his desk and the sideboard.
Further evidence of the identity of Golding’s wedge is provided in William Golding: The Man Who Wrote Lord of the Flies by John Carey:
We can take “… on his new ZX-500″ to mean “new to Golding”. According to Chapter 6 of Sharp’s own company history, Development of the “New Life” Product Strategy, the ZX-500 was manufactured a few years prior:
“… as offices were beginning to move away from electric typewriters, Sharp also entered the electronic typewriter market, with a primary focus on Europe and the U.S. The ZX-400, a mass-market model for offices was introduced in 1982, along with the ZX-500, a mid-range model with a display.”
The early ’80s were a productive time for electronics manufacturers like Sharp, and also a productive time for Golding, who won the Booker Prize for Rites of Passage in 1980 and then followed that up by winning the Nobel Prize in 1983.
But even a successful writer like Golding has his detractors – some people describing him as lightweight, overrated, and undeserving of a Nobel award.
Lightweight? No, I don’t think so. Golding and his Sharp ZX-500 were giants of their time!
Adler 21d electric
“What on earth possessed me to buy a Sharp ZX500?”
PROPORTIONAL SPACING COULD BE ONE REASON – For 1982 this typewriter is very advanced!