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.
When I first began this annual torture test, it would have been inconceivable to imagine that I would go on to do it 10 times, and now, if I succeed, which I will – damn it, do it for the eleventh time. I have already started, after having come up with the sole viable concept my poor old brain could conceive of under the circumstances. I could not wait for November first, as I feared that to do so might have left me bereft of all thought, in a sort of paralysis of the mind, sitting on the couch with my typewriter in a bewildered daze. The typewriter of the day is a Hermes 3000, which has the distinct advantage of being light enough to use on the lap, and being the best typewriter ever made in history, blah blah blah etc etc, as if anyone gives a rat’s ass about that. Suffice to say it works splendidly, an UZI for words, rapid firing, accurate, largely infallible, small, light, comfortable – a word spewing tool as effective as the Papal Swiss Guard, who only rarely failed in their duty… (historians may fact check this assertion). So it begins, 30 days of living the novelist’s dream; the goal – 50,000 words, every last one of them painstakingly constructed by pressing on plastic buttons connected to a series of wires and levers that slam inked impressions onto pre-punched Hilroy notepaper from Walmart. I exaggerate – it’s not so bad really – in fact I enjoy it. It gives me a chance to put at least one of my typewriters to good use (or bad use), and what good do they do just sitting there collecting dust for 11 months, if I never use them? Why do I have all of these obsolete devices anyhow? Nanowrimo provides the perfect answer – to write the next _____ novel, or perhaps the _____ book ever. Fill in the blanks and win a lollipop!
47,000 words. 25 days. 50 hours. 25 cups of tea. 22 pages of plot notes. 93 pages of typewritten draft. 1 Olympia Traveller. 1 Hermes 3000. 1 Smith Corona 5 (Eaton’s deluxe). 1 sore back. 1 case of nerves. 25 beers (dinner). 10 swims. 6 walks around the lake. Countless hours of pondering the plot. All just to say you wrote a book. A book you will publish yourself and that will not become a best seller, win the Booker, the Giller, the Pulitzer, or the Nobel or a million other prizes. Even if you think it should, which is ridiculous, but so what? Why else write a g–damned book?
My novel The Magic Typer is now available in print and e-book from Amazon. Click on the image to go to the webpage.
The book is illustrated with my own watercolour drawings, but not in colour, since that would make the price about $20. However, you can colour the illustrations yourself with crayons or coloured pencils!
I’ve been at work on this for years, but after too many reviews to count, I can’t find any typos, although it is certain there are some lurking where I least expected. All this editing makes me wonder if it isn’t best to simply write and publish raw text. How much can you improve an idea? These are philosophical questions that I am tired of debating! Here’s one analogy: raw text is like a live concert, and edited text is like a studio recording. Submit your essays by next Thursday!
(English professors would say I use too many !!! But I don’t give a damn!!!)