The Typewriter, A Love Affair

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The world will read again!‘ – Thomas Tipp, Vanilla Sky


The dull clanging of the letterbox rings down the hallway at the folks place. A scuffled flop of letters nestles at the foot of the front door. Utility bills, fines, court summons, (I had all three one day). That dull clanging noise that bisects my concentration is as welcome in this house as a curry-fart in a zorb-ball.

That’s why I write letters. At least one a week. An ex bought me an old Brother typewriter from a thrift store a few years back. A Brother Deluxe 220. It doesn’t have the number 1 and it’s louder than my Dad getting up in the morning. But every writer needs a typewriter, like every fighter needs a punch bag. Before I write anything I read Fleming, write a few clever words down, then address the laptop whilst Chopin serenades my thoughts.


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However, when I want to write and run my mouth, I bludgeon the keys of the Brother Typewriter like a snarling prize fighter smacks the heavy bag. It never comes out pretty, often paltry, with entire passages I wish I never started. Sometimes it’s like being stuck in traffic, only facing the wrong direction. Other times it’s a visceral slew of inarticulate ramblings. But there’s nothing quite like it.

Bukowski was given a computer for Christmas in 1990 and doubled his output of poems. He even enrolled on computer courses. “When this computer is in the shop and I go back to the electric, it’s like trying to break rock with a hammer. Of course, the essence of writing is there but you have to wait on it, it doesn’t leap from the gut as quickly, you begin to trail your thoughts — your thoughts are ahead of your fingers which are trying to catch up. It causes a block of sorts indeed.” – Bukowski.


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Woody Allen has famously used his old typewriter, the Olympia portable SM-3, to write everyone of his manuscripts. In an article for Showbiz, Roger Friedman writes. ‘He never went electric, never went to a word processor, to a computer Mac, PC, or otherwise. What about cut and paste, Weide asks him? And Woody shows us three little miniature staplers and a pair of scissors. “It’s not very sophisticated,” he says humbly. “Annie Hall,” “Match Point,” “Hannah and Her Sisters,” “Mighty Aphrodite”–you name it. This is the way it was done. And on top of that, the early drafts and notes are all in long hand, written on yellow legal pads. It’s kind of mind blowing.’


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I tried to write my difficult second book on the Brother. It started with an incredible intensity, about a man whose slaked libido suddenly gets resurrected when he survives a near fatal car accident with a prostitute. I’m sure it started well, but you can’t carry on hitting that heavy bag forever. Whats more the first book wasn’t particularly praiseworthy so I was bereft of any confidence.

Now the Brother sits idly, nestled in its suitcase lid by my feet under the desk. Yawning at my attempts to break through as a professional writer, secretly seething at it’s electrical nemesis. Still, when it comes out, it comes out swinging. My Brother is the sleeping elephant, as described in the Ali/Foreman documentary Rumble in the Jungle. ‘You can do what you want around a sleeping elephant. But when it wakes, it destroys everything.’


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