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Thursday, 26 September 2013

Any Spot Will Do: One typewriter, no cords, no wall sockets, no batteries, no printers, no worries!

To all intents and purposes, he's just another 18-year-old kid with dreams of making a living from writing - except in his case, he wears slippers like old men do, too bone weary to bend down and slip his heel inside the shoe. Otherwise he's got plenty of energy, loads of ideas and a burning ambition. And he's got a Remington portable typewriter, and some handy spots to put it. So he's on his way.
Well, when this photograph was taken, at his mother's council flat in Brixton, London, in February 1957, Michael Gerald Hastings was already the real deal. He was by then the youngest of Britain's groundbreaking writers dubbed the "angry young men". He was a playwright (becoming one of the youngest dramatists ever to have had his work professionally performed) and a published author of fiction.
Understandably, he was to be compared with Shelagh Delaney, who I featured on this blog in May last year. Indeed, The New York Times called them "precocious successes". Hastings and Delaney were almost the same age - Hastings was born (in Lambert, South London) on September 2, 1938, 11 weeks before Delaney. And while Hastings was at his Remington in Brixton, Delaney was writing A Taste of Honey on an Empire Aristocrat portable typewriter in the kitchen of her mother's flat in Salford, in the north of England. What's more, their gritty subject matter was pretty much identical. Eerily, they died within a day of each other, Hastings on November 19, 2011, and Delaney the next day.
Both left behind some memorable works - even if, apart from A Taste of Honey, Delaney wrote the screenplay for another forgotten classic, Charlie Bubbles. Hastings is best remembered for his 1984 play about the poet T.S. Eliot and his disastrous marriage to Vivienne Haigh-Wood, Tom & Viv, in which he took a sceptical view of Eliot’s treatment of his wife, who ended her life in a mental hospital. The play was a hit both at the Royal Court Theatre in London and then on Broadway; in 1994 it was adapted into a film starring Willem Dafoe and Miranda Richardson. 
Hastings' first play was Don't Destroy Me, written when he was just 17. A drama about the emotional sufferings of a teenage boy in a working-class Jewish family (that is, his own early life story), it was staged at the New Lindsey Theatre Club in Notting Hill and then in New York. Hastings followed it up the next year, 1957, with Yes - And Afterabout a 14-year-old girl sexually abused by an older man. His second play was staged at the Royal Court. As well, in 1957, he published his first novel, The Game. In 1966 he wrote the play Lee Harvey Oswald: A Far Mean Streak of Independence Brought on by Neglect (also known as The Silence of Lee Harvey Oswald). This docudrama was staged by the Hampstead Theatre Club and earned Hastings critical recognition and commercial success. He later enjoyed mainstream West End success with Gloo Joo (1978), a farce about a West Indian threatened with deportation from Britain, which won the Evening Standard Comedy of the Year Award in 1979. Hastings also wrote scripts for two movies,  The American and The Nightcomers (based on Henry James' short story The Turn of the Screw and starring Marlon Brando). He also wrote two libretti for Michael Nyman, Man and Boy: Dada (2003, assisted by Hastings' wife Victoria Hardie) and Love Counts (2005). His 1970 novel Tussy Is Me - about Eleanor Marx, daughter of Karl - won him the Somerset Maugham Award. A poetry collection, Love Me, Lambeth and Other Poems appeared in 1961. As well, Hastings wrote two biographies, Rupert Brooke: The Handsomest Young Man in England and Sir Richard Burton: A Biography (this Richard Burton is not to be confused with the Welsh actor [real name Richard Walter Jenkins] who married Elizabeth Taylor twice; this Richard Burton gave us the Karma Sutra).
Nor is this Michael Hastings to be confused with the American reporter (Michael Mahon Hastings) who in 2010 won the George Polk Award for "The Runaway General", a Rolling Stone profile of General Stanley McChrystal, commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force in the Afghanistan War, and who died in a car crash in Los Angeles in June this year. 
Stanley McChrystal
The reporter Michael Hastings. Note the cables.

Yes, Jack Kerouac started this bit of poetry in 1940, aged 18. Actually, he handwrote it, but I just thought I'd throw in "Underwood portable typewriter" as a clue. Like the playwright Michael Hastings, Kerouac was also an angry young man at 18, a would-be writer and poet. By 1959, aged 37, he was established, but just as angry:
From Steve Turner's Jack Kerouac: Angelheaded Hipster
Kerouac, with Albert Saijo (glasses) and Lew Welch (foreground), sits with soon-to-be married Gloria Schoffel as she types "This is a Poem by Albert Saijo, Lew Welch and Jack Kerouac" (later published as "Trip Trap"), based on the trio's journey from San Francisco to New York in Welch's car. 
The photographs were taken by Schoffel's husband-to-be Fred W. McDarrah in their apartment at 304 West 14th Street on December 10, 1959.
At dinner afterwards at the Egyptian Gardens Restaurant, 301 West 29th Street. McDarrah is on the right.
And what about Albert Saijo at 18? He was born in California in 1926 and in 1942, he and his family were imprisoned at Heart Mountain Relocation Centre in Wyoming as part of the US Government's program of Japanese-American internment. Albert later joined the 100th Battalion of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and served in Italy. Here he is as editor of the high school magazine Echoes:

World War II advertisement for the BG Corporation, promoting donations to the United Service Organisation, August 1942. It appeared in Aviation. (He types just like me!)
A German war correspondent at work on his Erika portable the Eastern Front in Russia in 1941.
Welsh playwright and actor Emlyn Williams seated at home in London with his wife, actress Molly O'Shann (Mary Marjorie Carus-Wilson), and dog and a typewriter on his knee in 1935.
Hungarian-born photographer "Weegee" (Arthur Fellig)  sits on a stool as he types in the trunk of his Chevrolet in 1942.
Author Erskine Caldwell sitting on the porch of his desert home in Tucson, Arizona, while his third wife, June Johnson, looks after their nine-month-old son Jay, 1944.
Two students from Iowa, reviewing on a Hermes Baby a trip across the Atlantic to Britain on the Queen Elizabeth for their local newspaper, 1948.
A New York family gather around a table to oversee the typing of a letter, 1950.
French playwright, screenwriter and novelist Francoise Sagan at her home on the Rue de Grenelle, Paris, 1956.
American author and educator Ralph Ellison sits at an Olivetti Studio 44 while at the American Academy on a Rome Fellowship in Literature awarded by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, June 1957.
Reporters typing on Olivetti Lettera 22s while sitting on the roof of St Peters Colonnade waiting for white smoke to appear to indicate the beginning of the papal election, October 1958.
Chinese-born writer and physician Han Suyin (Elizabeth Comber) at her (Remette?) typewriter, 1960. I love typing on glass-topped tables, it's cool!
Actor Anthony Perkins with an Olivetti Lettera 22 during a leisure break on a film set, 1962.
And finally back to another English playwright - Joe Orton working at his flat in Noel Road, Islington, London, 1966.


TonysVision said...


MS said...

The typewriter of the german war correspondent seems to be a Seidel & Naumann Erika Model 5(new model, later production). Recognizable by the covered spools, the shiny S&N emblem positioned above the right spool and the angular front portion of the dustcover.

Do somebody know if the thing underneath the machine is a special writing tray? It looks like it got a wrist rest (folded down, he has his right hand on it).

By the way, the following image link shows an other german war correspondent (in german Kriegsberichterstatter) with a typewriter.
(source: Wikipedia Commons / Bundesarchiv)

I say its an other S&N Erika Model 5 (new model, early production). Recognizable by visible spools, carriage lock and smooth front portion dustcover.
Interresting again, the thing underneath the machine. Maybe a german version of the Underwood Portable Typewriter Case Stand you showed us recently.

Rob Bowker said...

A fantastic rambling, in the best way. Who needs telly when we have you to entertain and educate us? And... If Kerouac can get away with a checked wool cap, I won't feel so bashful about wearing mine this winter.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for including a picture of Han Suyin.

One of the century's most neglected novelists. Her Hong Kong novel Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing attained some acclaim, but not as much as it deserved. And among her forgotten works is And The Rain My Drink, which is an excellent tale of Malaya during the insurgency and the dying days of colonial rule.

I digress. A Remington 5 Streamline?

David Lawrence said...

Ah, thank you Robert, once again, what a lovely collection of typers and their typers. I especially like the picture of Mr "Bates Motel" sitting on the ground with the wind blowing his hair and a quirky smile on his face, 'I have been asked to write a report on the daily life at the Bates Motel and...'