The Humble Typewriter

by Alton Gansky @AltonGansky

There’s
been a new addition to our family.
No,
not THAT kind of addition. I have become the proud owner of a typewriter.
Remember those? Big. Boat anchor heavy. Clunky. Noisy. In short: wonderful.
I’ve
been wanting an old typewriter. It’s an affliction that strikes many writers. I
don’t know how many business cards from authors I’ve received over the years
that included a photo of some old typewriter.
Writers
often develop an interest in the way writing used to be done, and although most
of us would not want to return to those days when everyone in your family and
several of your closest neighbors knew when you were writing. How could they
not? The rhythmic clacking of the type bar as letters were pounded into the
paper have been known to travel great distances.
My
new typewriter is from 1950 (so I use the word new ironically). Technically, it
is a Royal KMG made in 1950. The KMG model debuted in 1949 although it is
pretty much the same as KMM models that had been made for much longer. The big
difference is that the KMG is gray, hence the G in KMG.
I
suspect that most people will look at the picture above and see only obsolete
technology. Let me tell you what I see. I see the same model of typewriter Ray
Bradbury used to write Fahrenheit 451. He didn’t own it. He paid
ten cents an hour to use the one in his local library.
I
see the same kind of machine that helped Saul Bellow, winner of a Pulitzer
Prize, the Nobel Prize for Literature, the National Medal of Arts, and the only
author to receive the National Book Award for Fiction three times, do his work.
It’s
a long list of famous names including William Faulkner, playwright Arthur
Miller, Tennessee Williams, Dorothy Parker, Rod Serling, and many others.
Each
writer approaches a project in his or her own way. David McCullough still writes
using a secondhand Royal KMM he picked up over
forty years ago. That’s right.
Every
book the biographer has written (he’s won two Pulitzers and a couple of
National Book Awards) he has composed on that one typewriter. His reason? The typewriter slows him down. He has
pounded out all of his books the old fashion way. Sure he had no choice in 1964
when he bought the typewriter, but he does have a choice today and he chooses
his old Royal.
I’m
not sure I could do what Mr. McCullough does, but I admire him for being able
to create such wonderful books the old fashion way.
As
you can tell, I love my new old typewriter and I hope to collect more. I don’t
plan to abandon my computer. I don’t think I could sever the invisible chords
that connect us, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate the beauty,
mechanical complexity, and history of the good ol’ typewriter.
By
the way, the term “typewriter” used to apply as much to the typist as to the
device the typist used. That’s right, a person can be a typewriter.

So, do you have an old
typewriter hanging around your house? Does it inspire you?



Alton Gansky is the author of over forty books, novels and nonfiction. 


He is also the director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. www.brmcwc.com