Thursday, October 19, 2017

Famous Typewriters (and the Things They Made)

I flew into and out of San Francisco in a day a few weeks ago. Did I tell you about it? Maybe not, it was a bit of a secret.

By far, the weirdest/best thing I found was an exhibit of famous typewriters at San Francisco International Airport. In the middle of the jetlagged night, it felt like the most important thing I'd ever seen.

4. Tennessee Williams, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof



I read The Glass Menagerie in seventh grade and adored it, although at the time I couldn't tell you why. Probably something to do with the mentally-fragile daughter, whose condition to me was scary and recognizable. When I moved to D.C., my friends Eric and Matthias used to take me to a bar called the Raven, the first time I had a regular bar, where, according to local legend, Tennessee Williams either hung out or wrote his first book. I started a lot of stories on bar napkins but never finished any.

3. Ernest Hemingway, A Movable Feast



I was always a little disgusted by Hemingway and a little scared of him, but Marty Beckerman's wonderful book The Heming Way did a bit to dispel it, and a bit to empower a looser, funnier sense of disgust.

2. Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles



Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes. In a purely metaphysical, inspiration-centric way, I identify completely with Rachel Bloom's song. I spent a while just staring at this typewriter in surprised silence (well, I was alone, so it wasn't that surprising that I was silent). Imagining his fingers on those very keys, the pure physicality of it all, the way that every time you hit a key the letter is permanently imprinted, no highlighting and deleting, no going back. Merely existing in the same place at that typewriter felt more dangerous than anything I've ever done. It was a dare never to use a computer again.

1. The Beatles, Introducing the Beatles



And the Beatles. I've never been crazy about the Beatles -- not that I don't like them! I really like them! -- I just, well, never thought they were the ultimate band or the only band that ever existed or anything like that. But also, I never thought about them writing songs. Or writing songs in an actual draft/reworking/another draft/final way. Would they write the words "I'd like to be your man," go back and forth about the word order, the rhythm, change "I'd like" to a declarative statement like "I want," and then Ringo tells you that you need a concrete image and you finally, finally type in the middle of the night, "I want to hold your hand"? Maybe that's not how it happened. But something happened. And the moments their keys struck paper, it turned into something.

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