The internet is like a flea market. You never know what you are going to find once you start browsing the stalls. Consider at YouTube, for instance. I love grazing, following the algorithm as it suggests more content on a subject I’ve shown interest in. It has a satisfying tendency to drill down on my enthusiasms and take me ever deeper into the esoteric byways of any given subject.
One such subject is the typewriter. I’ve mentioned my interest in typewriters before—after all, they played a huge role in my career yet have now almost completely disappeared from daily life. In particular, I’ve referenced Robert Messenger’s Oz Typewriter blog on a couple of occasions.
Robert has the nose of a bloodhound when it comes to sniffing out typewriters stories and manages to keep up a regular flow of fascinating material. You wonder where it’s all coming from, but he never ceases to draw me in for a good read.
Master of one
In the past, such ultra-enthusiasm had few outlets. People such as Robert can produce tremendously detailed articles for a worldwide audience, thanks to the internet. No longer are we shackled to the commercial, advertising-supported mass media. Instead of listening to the Jacks of all trades, we can enjoy the opinions of the Masters, even in a subject as oddball as the typewriter.
This morning I saw that Robert (who is in Australia, as you guess from the name of the blog, so he had a head start on Macfilos) has produced a long and fascinating article on the use of typewriters in the literary world, among publishers but primarily among authors of the past. I don’t know how he manages it, but he has found pictures of authors from J.D.Salinger to Jack London, Agatha Christie and William Faulkner in the process of creating on their typewriters.
For them, the typewriters was an essential tool of the trade, just as everyone now uses a computer. It was a vast improvement on handwriting and must have been a transforming experience for typesetters whose job it was to turn authors’ scribbles and corrections into print.
These days authors have it relatively easy, with outstanding software such as Scrivener and Ulysses to plan, store references and write in a structured fashion. Corrections can be made instantly, without the need to re-type the entire manuscript as was done in the past.
I am in awe of writers of the past, typing drafts, correcting them, re-typing them and re-correcting. It’s the sort of stuff we think nothing of these days.
This fascinating feature on Oz Typewriter brings the world of the 20th Century author to life and is well worth a look. Who knows, you could become a convert and join me in nurturing a love of typewriters.