Category Archives: Typewriters
Every November for the past ten years I’ve sat down with typewriter and written 50,000 words (at least) about something. First there were novels, and eventually there was a memoir, then an account of my hike around Mont Blanc. Two trilogies later (one with a 4th book), a humorous philosophical tale, and a variety of things have come from my mind onto paper. I spent a year of spare time editing only one of these, and many hundreds of hours editing every last thing I have written to date. Since writing two books last year, one in November and another that followed right on the heels of that, I have had in the back of my mind that this November I would just sit down and do it again. Then it hit me that I really didn’t have to do it again. I decided to allow myself to fail. What a relief! The fact remains that at this moment I don’t have much to say. Part of the problem is that after you have written a lot of books, there comes a realization that you can do it if you want to, but there’s nothing to prove anymore. It would have been great if my books had shot to the top of the best seller list, but that only happens with the rarity of lottery winning, and from what I observe a lot of best sellers are pure crap. I don’t want the life of a professional author anyhow, running all over the place promoting their work and listening to people who don’t have a clue discussing the meaning of it.
What I am missing is the pleasure of having my Olympia Traveller on my lap and hammering out 1700 words a day, then reading what I wrote to my wife every night. One day I might write another fictional book, but my next writing project will be to finish up the book I started long ago about how to build a guitar. Now that might sell, as the world seems to be filled with aspiring guitar builders these days. Where do they all come from? Why are there so many more guitars than guitar players? Do pianists all own a dozen pianos?
So, to keep up my typing dexterity and to taste the pleasure of putting words to paper I’ve been writing poems every Friday night after the pizza. My wife writes one too, on her sole typewriter – a 1953 Oliver #4 – one of the cutest and best typewriters ever conceived (and I’ve owned 200 of them). Unlike me, she’s perfectly content with one good typewriter. I still have to restrain myself from adding to the collection however, which stands at 97 today. I have one up for sale however, which is proof that I’m not hoarding them, right? Every year we design our own Christmas card and write a poem for the inside. I’m working on that now, but the poem takes the most work. To get into practice I wrote a couple of poems off the top of my head, which will very likely not be suitable for the Christmas card, but might be good enough for this blog. Well, maybe not but I wrote them so I’m going to put them up.
I recently read A Farewell to Arms. My wife’s book club was reading it so I decided to get myself a copy and see if I would enjoy the book. I read The Sun Also Rises once and didn’t like it all that much, so I was hoping this one would be better. It was better, much better. In comparison, The Sun Also Rises is hardly worthy of attention, and yet it got Hemingway lots of that. So who knows how this works. While doing the inevitable internet searches to see what the world had to say about A Farewell to Arms I stumbled across a number of supposed facts about Hemingway’s various typewriters, of which he had many. There were some facts that seemed reliable and a great number of what were obvious errors about Hemingway and the typewriters. I had to laugh at one comment stating he typed so hard he wore out his typewriters! If he wore them out, how come his first typewriter, a Corona folder, is still around and works?
There are lists and lists of typewriters he is alleged to have owned. Several are well documented, for example the Corona his first wife gave him for his birthday when he was 21 or so. Steve Soboroff owns Hemingway’s 3 bank Underwood, unless he sold it without informing me. I also saw photos of Ernest using a Noiseless Underwood, which I think qualifies as solid evidence for that one. Then there is the last one, the Halda, which seems to have solid provenance and which was allegedly sold at auction a few years ago. There are photos of Hem with a Royal with chrome trim around the hood too.
To fill out this list of Hemingway’s alleged typewriters we have a Royal P, as well as a Corona 4, plus various other Royals. While reading through all this a funny thought began to occur to me. I had a feeling that I own every one of Hemingway’s typewriters, or at least a close relative of same. I began to dig through the piles in the basement and discovered that indeed I do have a reasonable facsimile of every typewriter Hemingway is reported to have owned (that I know of).
I could not find any photos of Hemingway’s Royal P Portable, but here is mine.
During my recent book writing I tested many typewriters here and came to the conclusion that the Facit and Halda typewriters were becoming my first choices. I was consequently thrilled last week when I unexpectedly came across another 1961 Facit, with larger type than the others. I found in the case a few typed sheets with several versions of a creation legend. Whoever owned this must have given up on writing, which is too bad, but good luck for me!
I like April, especially this year. I got my vaccine last Friday. Found a very good typewriter too, a 1963 Smith Corona Clipper which is in fact a Sterling for those of you who understand these things (Series 5A that is). This one has elite type, and best of all it scans to OCR almost perfectly. That can be a problem if you write a lot on typewriters and wish to scan and edit. I completed my 12th novel last week, 60,000 words typed and scanned and edited. Some of the scans were atrociously poor, others worked well. I try to use a variety of my collection of typewriters, so results vary when scanning. The benefit of smaller type is that you can write more on a line before having to return the carriage, which interrupts the flow. Less interruptions are desirable to keep the words flowing.
Now that I have finished this book and also the latest guitar, I think I’ll take a break and do something else for a while. Maybe write some more poems. Here’s one from last night. I typed it, then scanned it and edited the text, then printed it and scanned it to a JPEG!
My latest novel is now available on Kindle. I set out to write a story about a poet who lives in his Mom’s basement and is enthralled by a book by a professor Schlitzenberger called The Wisdom of Gandalf. No sooner did I begin than somehow my brain hijacked the plot and turned the story into a sequel of my book The Magic Typer! I don’t know how that happened but one rule I follow when writing is to go with whatever crazy ideas come through my fingers onto the paper. So this guy, Warren, lives with his mother, but upstairs there is a girl that he is in love with, named Olympia. She of the Magic Typer, but this is 20 years later. I won’t say more, maybe you’ll read the book! I had a great time writing this one, and it’s filled with excerpts from a fictional book about Gandalf (you know who he is), as well as lots of poems and bits of another novel, plus letters that should amuse.
Wednesday Jan 27, 2021
I’ve just collected my 199th typewriter yesterday – a 1974 Adler J2. I am typing on it here, to give it a test and see how I like it. Despite how good many of my typewriters are, I generally go back to the same old ones after a while, because they seem to suit me best. This has a delightful typeface however, which is a bonus. This machine has a plastic shroud, which makes it somewhat less desirable. Metal seems to be preferable for some reason, probably because I associate it with my childhood, an era for which nostalgia rules my heart. The idea of collecting typewriters is wrapped in nostalgia, because of the fact that they are now a thing of the past, and were mostly all made of metal. Only the later models had plastic shells, and though many of those are great, I and others, seem to have this preference for metal. It is illogical, but so is collecting things, unless done for profit, and even then there is not much profit in this when you consider all the time and effort spent to find a typewriter, clean it up, and fix whatever may be wrong with it. Often there are plenty of problems, and the hours spent do not pay well for the cost or price received when selling. But we persist, for the joy of finding typewriters, like birdwatchers scouring the bushes for rare birds, we scour the thrift shops in search of the new and unusual models, yet still glad to find some old favourite thing, even as we decline to buy it, unless it is such a bargain…
I wonder if typewriters were all $5 each, and there were half a dozen in every thrift shop, would anyone bother to collect them? I think not. We tend to value things that are rare and or expensive. If every typewriter was $5, which one would I buy to use? Not some rare old thing, unless it worked so well that I preferred using it over a better made model. When one removes price and rarity from the equation, then we find an entirely different set of values. I think of this as something like a blind test. I find this to be true for guitars, especially.
People will pay thousands of dollars for a guitar that has some label on it that they imagine confers a great value to it, even if in a blind test there is no difference between that and a similar guitar that is practically free by comparison. If I were to offer someone any typewriter in the world, and they had no idea what any of them were worth on the market, I bet they would chose simply by how the machine felt, how good the typed page looked, and last, what the machine looked like. But if I had informed them that the Hermes 3000 was worth ten times the cost of the one they selected, I also wager they might well change their mind fast! This happens to me, I should admit, despite my trying to judge things solely on logical grounds.
I think this is a factor of knowledge versus ignorance. When I was young I had less knowledge, and hence more ignorance. The things that I liked then were selected on my youthful judgment, unclouded by the opinions of others and or what the thing cost. I liked things for what I perceived them to be, not for what others perceived. When judging the worth or something now, I always try to keep that thought in mind, and think like a child, rather than as a fan of this or that because everyone else is.