Moving—or Not—into Modernity

Harry's typewriter

My colleague Andrew Karre posted last week (Thursday December 3) about the future of the book. His entry reminded me of the interest generated recently by the auction of Cormac McCarthy’s typewriter (not pictured at left). The typewriter at left is an Underwood and is part of a collection of manual typewriters that belongs to Harry Lerner, the founder of Lerner Publishing Group.

Turns out that McCarthy’s trusty Olivetti was losing steam, so a friend bought him a replacement, which cost $11 (shipping and handling cost even more–$19.95). The old one went for $254,500 at Christie’s last Friday December 4.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author has no intention of making the leap to computers—and he’s not alone. I did a little googling this weekend to find out which writers are still clacking away on manual typewriters, and there’s a fair number of prominent people who are. Like David Sedaris and Don DeLillo and David McCullough and Tom Wolfe.

I found references to these writers and their typewriters on a number of different websites such as the Classic Typewriter Page. This delightful website is maintained by Richard Polt, a professor of philosophy at Xavier University in Cincinnati. The site has a great gallery of photos of typewriters, links to interesting articles, a long list of authors and other celebrities and the typewriters they use(d), information on where to get your typewriter fixed, and much, much more.

I myself am old enough to have grown up with typewriters. In fact, I took a whole year of typing classes when I was a teenager, which means I can type about 90 words a minute if I have to. But I did ultimately come to love computers and all the amazing things they allow us to do, and I put my IBM Selectric to rest many years ago. Sigh.

Check out the links below for more information about writers and their typewriters:

Los Angeles Times Blog

This blog entry describes collectible typewriters besides McCarthy’s.

My Typewriter includes a list of writers, both modern and contemporary, short biographies about them, and information about their typewriters and writing methods.

Mental Floss

This entry on the Mental Floss blog lists short entries about famous authors (historic and modern) and their typewriters.

The Guardian

Another fun article about modern authors and their typewriters, from The Guardian website.

Do you still compose on a typewriter? Let us know, and check in next week for more from TFCB!

2 thoughts on “Moving—or Not—into Modernity

  1. Andrew Karre

    “Big day in my career. First time I composed my commentary for All Things Considered on my computer. Good-bye, typewriter.”-12-10-2009 Tweet from Dan Schorr.

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