My copy of Paradigm Shifts: Typewritten Tales of Digital Collapse has landed down under …
My copy of Paradigm Shifts: Typewritten Tales of Digital Collapse has landed down under …
Yes, you can judge a book by its cover.
My sister (bless her) bought me a copy of Tom Hanks’ Uncommon Type, his first published work of fiction.
In this plush hardback edition, typewriter key-tops feature on the inside cover pages …
As it says in the blurb, and as you’ll know if you read Chad Camello’s typecast review from last year, a typewriter plays a part in each story (sometimes incidental to the plot, sometimes central) and related typewriter illustrations precede each story.
In Steve Wong is Perfect, the last story in the book (about a man who worked for Home Depot and broke the record for consecutive strikes in ten-pin bowling) the mention of a typewriter is limited to …
His bowling bag—that lovely yellow and brown leather—was behind an old beat up plaid typewriter case on the highest shelf in what was his sister’s closet, next to a box that held about a hundred old Barbie dolls with vacant smiles and impossibly trim waists.
The illustration shown before the story is (yes, you’ve guessed it) an old beat up plaid typewriter case.
In the story A Month on Greene Street a typewriter is more central to the plot: Bette, a single mom newly established in suburbia, has visions and misgivings about her new neighbour, Paul Legaris, who has “telescopes and typewriters laying around the house” …
[…] he was bent in concentration over a hunk of machinery that looked like it had been made in the 1800s.
Klock klock klock klock klock.
The machine was a typewriter, though it looked like no typewriter Bette had ever seen. The thing was ancient, something out of the Victorian era, a mechanical printing apparatus with hammers arcing onto paper rolled into the carriage.
Paul hit a key five times—klock klock klock klock klock—added a touch of oil to the inner levers of the typwriter, and repeated.
Klock klock klock klock klock.
This was how Paul Legaris could ruin a peaceful morning on Greene Street, servicing a writing gimrack straight out of Jules Verne.
Tom’s stories are entertaining, but for me the highlights of the book are a series of faux newspaper columns interspersed throughout the book—written, it seems, by Tom’s belligerent alter ego, “a small town newspaper columnist with old-fashioned views of the modern world” …
Our Town Today with Hank Fiset: An Elephant in the Pressroom …
[…] The Bull Elephant in the room says the Tri-Cities Daily News/Herald is giving up the economic ghost of a printed version …
[…] SUCH IS PROGRESS, but it makes me think of Al Simmonds, a rewrite man at the old Associated Press …
[…] AL’S TYPEWRITER WAS a Continental—a beast nearly the size of an easy chair—bolted to his desk, not because anyone would try to steal the thing. You’d have been foolish to have tried to lift it. Al’s desk was a small, narrow altar of editing. He would bang out his version of my copy—leaner, crisper, better, dang it—then flip up the typewriter on hinges, and on the cleared space go at his own stuff with a blue pencil.
Our Town Today with Hank Fiset: At Loose in the Big Apple …
[…] Up the steps a pair of Italian typewriters, large and small versions of the same model, were kept behind glass as if they were studded with valuable gems but they weren’t!
Nor were the machines more than fifty years old. I couldn’t help but think the Tri-Cities could put together a collection of used typewriters and charge admission. The now vacant Baxter’s Ham Factory on Wyatt Boulevard is available. Anyone civic-minded enough to get cracking on that?
Our Town Today with Hank Fiset: Back From Back in Time …
IMAGINE THE LARGEST yard-attic-estate sale in the Western World combined with the Going out of Business Blowout of every Sears store in the country and you’ll have an idea of the scope of the Swap, as the regulars call it …
[…] I was about to retire to the snack bar for a lime shave when I set my eyes on an old typewriter, an Underwood portable of ebony that, I kid you not, gleamed in the sun like a Springsteen hot rod …
Our Town Today with Hank Fiset: Your Evangelista, Esperanza …
CUPPA JOE, PAL? Addicted to the stuff! Coffee, that is. I’m a newsman, you see, and the newsroom that doesn’t run on coffee, puts out a lousy paper, I’ll bet.
[…] A tour of the caffeine parlors in our three conjoined metropolises will prove that good wake-’em-up is roasted, brewed, pressure-steamed, and poured in damn fine style.
[…] Java-Va-Voom on Second Boulevard at North Payne in East Corning has something no other coffee place can match. There is the whissh of the frother, the chitter-chatter of the staff and customers, and music, soft, in the background, like the musical score of a movie playing next door. Occasionally, there is also the click-clack made by a typist, but in no ordinary sense of the word.
ESPERANZA CRUZ-BUSTERMENTE born and raised in nearby Orangeville, is an Account Adviser for a local bank, though, to many people, that is her second job. Many folks know her as an EVANGELISTA, a typist who uses her words-per-minute skills for other people …
All of the above and plenty more considered, Uncommon Type is well worth a read. It’ll look good on your bookshelf too!
I love my new Kindle Paperwhite, Using a touch-screen keyboard to make notes (instead of using arrow keys to navigate around a cumbersome keyboard menu) is a godsend.
Rather than having to rely on a cover with a built-in light, the Paperwhite’s touch-screen is back-lit.
The Kindle cover I bought has a magnetic clasp. Opening and closing the cover automatically turns sleep mode on and off. Dictionary look-ups are instantaneous and are automatically saved in a Vocabulary Builder.
A nice “touch” are the screen savers which depict a variety of writing and print mediums, pens, pencils, ink wells, etc. Of these, three are typewriter-related …
“T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland not only featured a typist as one of its figures, Eliot’s actual typing of the poem on three different typewriters proved the key by which Lawrence Rainey unlocked the history of the text and accurately reconstructed the different episodes’ order of composition.
Would such a coup have been possible if Eliot wrote the poem on a succession of Mac Powerbooks? Scholars interested in questions such as these for literary manuscripts that now exist only as document folders on hard drives or data in the “cloud” will one day have to come to terms with the particulars of different operating systems, software versions, and hardware protocols, as well as the characteristics of a variety of different hard-copy output technologies, from dot matrix and daisy wheel to inkjet and laser printer.”
From: Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing (by Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, Harvard University Press, 2016
I picked up a couple of good books at a garage sale recently. One of them was The Nice and the Good, Iris Murdoch’s eleventh novel.
Several chapters in and I’m so very impressed:
“Pierce became aware of his mother and turned slowly to face her. He rarely moved fast. He looked at her without smiling, almost grimly. He looked at her like an animal, cornered but not frightened, a dangerous confident animal. And Mary apprehended herself as a thin dark woman, a mother, a representative somehow of the past, of Pierce’s past, confronting him as if she were already a ghost. This came to her in an instant with an agony of possessive love for her son and a blinding pity of which she did not know whether it was for him or herself. Next moment, as she searched for something to say, she took in the scene, Barbara’s pretty room so tidy and empty now, but already expectant. And with an immediate instinct of her son’s vulnerability she saw the huge shell design as utterly untimely. It was something that belonged to the quietness of Pierce’s thought about Barbara and not to the hurly-burly of Barbara’s actual arrival, which Mary now anticipated with a kind of dread. The careful work with the shells seemed to her suddenly so typical of Pierce, so slow and inward and entirely without judgement.”
It’ll be worth adding The Nice and the Good to my Kindle library alongside The Black Prince. As I’ve mentioned before, probably sounding like a cracked record, I like to bookmark my favourite passages, add notes, and also extend my vocabulary using the Kindle’s inbuilt dictionary.
The hardback copy I found is an ex-library book and still in reasonably good condition. The question I ask myself is why was it discarded?
Perhaps, in touting the benefits of a digital e-reader, I’ve answered my own question. Libraries are changing with the times. No bad thing.
Iris Murdoch was born in Dublin on July 15, 1919 and grew up in London. She was educated at Badminton School in Bristol and studied classics at Somerville College, Oxford from 1938 until 1942, receiving first-class honors. Her first novel, Under the Net, was published in 1954. Twenty-three more novels followed, each written in longhand and personally delivered to her publishers in London:
“I have never touched a typewriter, and still less a word processor.” from a New York Times Books interview with John Russell, February 22 1990.
And yet, according to an Independent (UK) interview between Iris and Angela Lambert in 1992:
In her absence I looked around the sitting room. Its windows were almost covered by foliage from the garden, so that the sunshine filtered through with a pale green, subaqueous light, emphasised by apple green walls. The floor was covered with a large oriental carpet, which was itself covered with books, mugs, magazines (the National Geographic with an article on the Kurds), two typewriters, some envelopes and plastic bags.
Furthermore, a report, in the Oxford Mail, following the sale of the late author’s belongings at a book fair in 2011:
The unusual collection of personal belongings, including the writer’s typescripts and photographs, was found by the family who bought Miss Murdoch’s former home in Steeple Aston.
Bookseller Christian White bought them last year and put them up for sale again at the Oxford Book Fair at Oxford Brookes University on Saturday. “It’s just incredible what they chose to leave behind. There are dozens of photographs, typescripts, even Iris’s ice-skates and her typewriter.”
It occurred to me that these reviewers and interviewers had overlooked, or chosen to ignore, the fact that these typewriters may well have belonged to the late author’s husband. Iris married John Bayley, an Oxford don, literary critic and writer, in 1956.
And then I came across a review of John Bayley’s book: Elegy for Iris: A Memoir written very soon after his wife’s death:
Although there are many beautiful, touching passages in John Bayley’s memoir of his wife Iris Murdoch, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1994, I am left with the impression that Mr. Bayley has, in some way, betrayed an unspoken trust. He doesn’t air the contents of her diapers, but he takes his reader placidly through the indignities of Ms. Murdoch’s day, which once began with her settling at the typewriter soon after 7 but now begins with prolonged, heavy sleep and culminates in her avid watching of Teletubbies.
Is it credible that Iris, faced with dementia, no longer able to write longhand, took to using a typewriter? Or did John and Iris “settle at the typewriter” together, John playing the role of both doting husband and typist?
I’d like to think the latter was true.
Iris Murdoch died in Oxford in February 1999, aged 79.
John Oliver Bayley was Warton Professor of English at the University of Oxford from 1974 to 1992. He died on January 12th 2015, at his home in Lanzarote, in the Canary Islands, aged 89.
Born in in Waukegan, Illinois, fantasy writer Ray Bradbury (August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012) was a native of the “rapidly disappearing small-town world of the American heartland” that English writer Malcolm Bradbury described from the point of view of an alien visitor.
Like Malcolm, Ray was a prolific writer of short stories, screenplay and teleplays. However, Ray’s tales of small-town America were more likely to be visited by time-traveling historical figures and “alien” travelers of an interplanetary rather than a transatlantic nature.
“Ray Bradbury on Martian soil”
Oil on Canvas by Gabriel Caprav
Ray’s family lived in Tucson, Arizona, before relocating to Los Angeles when he was fourteen. He lived and worked there for the rest of his life.
It was in UCLA’s Powell Library, in a study room with typewriters for rent, that Bradbury wrote his classic story of a book burning future, The Fireman, which was about 25,000 words long. It was later published at about 50,000 words under the name Fahrenheit 451, for a total cost of $9.80, due to the library’s typewriter-rental fees of ten cents per half-hour.
Ray’s preference for electric typewriters could be explained by an incident that occurred in 1932, when a carnival entertainer, one “Mr. Electrico”, touched the 12-year-old Bradbury on the nose with an electrified sword, making his hair stand on end, and shouted, “Live forever!”
Bradbury later remarked:
“I felt that something strange and wonderful had happened to me because of my encounter with Mr. Electrico. He gave me a future. I began to write, full-time. I have written every single day of my life since that day 69 years ago.”
The author did not expect to live forever (thanks to the intervention of “Mr Electrico” he lived to the ripe old age of 91) but with 27 novels and over 600 short stories to his name, his impressive legacy lives on.
See Also: Moi Azimov
A prolific writer of short stories, literary criticism, television plays and series, Malcolm Bradbury (7 September 1932 – 27 November 2000) made no secret of the fact that fiction, and in particular the novel, was his true love:
“Like most comic novelists, I take the novel extremely seriously. It is the best of all forms – open and personal, intelligent and inquiring. I value it for its scepticism, its irony and its play.”
Often compared with his contemporary David Lodge, Bradbury’s novels are consistently darker in mood and less playful both in style and language. His first novel, Eating People is Wrong was published in 1959, the same year (and in the same week) he began his career as a professor.
Bradbury’s best-known novel, The History Man (1975) is a dark satire of academic life.
An excerpt from the novel is used by Lodge in his book The Art of Fiction to illustrate “Staying on the Surface”. Lodge writes:
“The novel consists of description and dialogue. The description focuses obsessively on the surface of things. […]
The dialogue is presented flatly, objectively, without introspective interpretation by the characters, without authorial commentary, without any variation on the simple adverb-less speech tags he/she asks/says, without even breaks between the lines of speech.
The “depthlessness” of the discourse is further emphasized by its preference for the present tense. The past tense of conventional narrative implies that the story is known to and has been assessed by the narrator in its entirety. In this novel the narrative discourse impassively tracks the characters as they move from moment to moment towards an unknown future.”
Bradbury’s 1983 novel Rates of Exchange was short-listed for the Booker Prize. The novel is set in the fictional Eastern European country of Slaka, a place that Bradbury revisited in a short book entitled Why Come to Slaka? (1986) a parody of travel books.
In Malcolm’s second novel, Stepping Westward (1965), novelist James Walker leaves his wife and child behind in Nottingham, England, having accepted a creative writing fellowship in the United States.
In almost all of Bradbury’s novels the most frequently recurring theme is that of the slightly naive, liberal innocent, usually an academic, hilariously abroad in an unfamiliar, and occasionally slightly threatening, context.
Walker’s observations on American life are informed by the author’s studies and travels in real-life (Bradbury completed a PhD in American Studies in 1962, and took up teaching fellowships at Indiana University and Yale). The character of Walker is based, to some extent, on the author himself:
“He was going bald; his stomach was potted; he wore a dotard’s knitted cardigan, and his suit made him look as if he’d been rolled over by a sheep.”
“… The typewriter cost, as I recall it, a hefty £5, and was amazingly slow-working, needing oiling as often as a steam locomotive. Many of its keys were out of alignment, giving my work just the sort of incriminating character that had Alger Hiss in trouble not long after. Even paper, recently rationed in wartime, was a problem: so expensive and scarce that most of my early work was done on the tattered backsides of other people’s previous writing. Carbon paper, which in those days had a sticky-toffee surface and a smell that clung after work, was more expensive still, but indispensible; the only other way of making a copy was hiring a scribe or Dickensian clerk.The ball pen would soon be invented, but writing was in the age of the steel nib, and the new technology was still to come. So writing was an underfunded, arduous, sometimes back-breaking form of secretarial work. It meant long days at the keys on a hard chair at an uncomfortable half-lit desk. It was grim, done in a spirit of parsimony (always reuse old paperclips), a climate of bohemian indigence and rejection. I can’t remember how long it took to recoup the cost of that typewriter, but it was several months of hard-written articles.A Bob Cratchit of writing, I dreamed of better things. But it was only in the mid-fifties, when I moved for a while to the USA, that I discovered writer’s paradise. Here, amid all the joys of American affluence, was everything the author needed; no wonder American novels were so good. There were glorious portable typewriters, light as a bird’s feather, with flowing silver lines, fingertip touch, easyfit ribbons. There were great stores filled with writer’s materials; every kind of paper, glorious yellow legal notepads, binders and folders, staplers and fixers, brilliant desk lamps, joyous filing cabinets, gunmetal desks on wheels that tracked round the room.A natural philanthropist, I had always longed to help my fellow writers, especially at home. Now I dreamed of yet greater inventions, every kind of fantastic authorial possibility. Suppose typewriters could be driven not by thumping fingers but electricity, diesel, steam? Suppose they could become an intelligent machine, holding a dictionary so that every literal could be noted and corrected? Suppose they could format, design, publish, copy?”