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The Typewriter


1947 Royal Arrow, S/N C-1340444


I am the second owner of this typewriter. I purchased it from its original owner, an 84-year old veteran, in 2009. I’d decided that I, like most people, needed an old manual typewriter. I had a theory: the cut-n-paste technology that comes along with composing and editing fiction on a computer was having a definite, and perhaps undesirable, effect on my writing process. I was going to test this theory — somehow — with a manual typewriter. Maybe I’d compose first drafts on it. Or retype existing drafts, as a way of feeding the computer-generated text through a slower, more thoughtful process. Other people do this by writing out their work in long hand. But my handwriting is atrocious, and always has been…probably because I started typing in the fourth grade. No going back now.


I found the typewriter on Craigslist, for forty dollars, and drove the short distance south to Carpinteria with a pair of twenties in my pocket. There, in an unassuming little suburban bungalow, I met the owner – let’s call him Bud – and his wife, we’ll call her Bessie. I sat down with them in their living room and Bud brought the typewriter out, in its original, somewhat battered case. The typewriter itself, though…that was pristine. A slight yellowing of the letters under the key glass and the hardened surface of the platen were all that indicated its age. But before I learned the machine’s story, Bessie asked me what I was going to use it for, with a certain amount of delicacy that didn’t make sense, at first. I — still optimistic — said, “I’m going to write a novel on it.” They both visibly relaxed.


from words on torn paper: Specificity

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