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Monday 2 September 2013

Typewriter Update, August 2013

Spot the cigar: Hemingway, 1944
One of the silliest pieces about typewriters I have read in the past six months appeared in a New York Post books blog "Page Views" last week. Written by Tausif Noor, it began, "Those who long for the days when Hemingway would eke out novels at his desk with the aid of a cigar and whiskey should flock to Northeastern University, where a collection of typewriters belonging to famous writers is currently on display at the 360 Gallery."
Did Hemingway smoke cigars? No. Did he ever smoke? Yes, briefly - Russian cigarettes during World War I. Was he ever seen smoking - anything - at a typewriter? No.
As for the whiskey, Hemingway may have written about whiskey, but did he drink it? Yes, occasionally, especially while on safari "to take the edge off so I would not be nervous. Did he ever drink whiskey - or any alcohol - while typing?  No.
Where do people get these ideas? Do they ever bother to check whether Hemingway did write with the aid of cigars and whiskey? Apparently not. More importantly, why is it necessary to try to evoke an image of Hemingway at a typewriter smoking a cigar and drinking whiskey anyway? Why can't he simply type?
Wot? No whiskey?
A far more considered article appeared in Forbes last year, written by Mary Claire Kendall. In it, Hemingway's son Patrick rightly poured scorn on the very silly movie Hemingway & Gellhorn. Kendall quoted the younger Hemingway as saying, “Well, the truth is the one health measure Hemingway did follow was never - never - to smoke in any form. But, it’s interesting to think that they equate an intellectual with a cigar smoker. That’s their limited point of view.” Furthermore, as for Hemingway's drinking, Patrick said, “He certainly wasn’t as big a drunk as Faulkner or Fitzgerald. They were both truly much more alcoholics than Hemingway ever was!” When he was writing, Patrick added, Hemingway would never drink, working, as Charles Scribner III said in Ernest Hemingway: Wrestling with Life, “like a monk in fasting”.
The very same day the Noor piece appeared, Tom Landon answered, in part a question about an IBM Selectric in The Roanoke Times by writing, "And it's hard to imagine Hemingway writing The Old Man and the Sea on anything but a battered 1940s Royal while standing at his upright desk in Havana with a bottle of gin and a cigar beside it."
So now it's gin, not whiskey!? Make up your uneducated minds!
See the battered Royal
But why must Hemingway's typewriters always be "battered"? My impression is that Hemingway took very good care of his typewriters - especially the Royal portables he used in later life.  His first typewriter, the Corona 3 given to him on his 22nd birthday, in 1921, by his future first wife Hadley Richardson, was clearly well cared for, even being taken to a Parisian repairman in February 1922 after being knocked over by his ‘femme de menage’. As Jack Dempsey and Charles Bean well knew, it takes a big bang to damage a Corona 3.
Rusty keys in Soboroff Collection? I think not.
Noor, by the way, ended his item by referring to "each rusty key offering sage council from its previous owner." I really wonder whether any of the typewriters Steve Soboroff has on display at 360 Galley has rusty keys. My bet would be a very firm - "No!"
These assumptions remind me of that silly Jacek Nowakphoto shot to illustrate a feature article about Hollywood screenwriters in Vanity Fair last March:
The hat? Ridiculous. The cigar? Maybe it's a Hemingway leftover. The decanter? No way. The Robotron portable typewriter? Unbelievable! 
Speaking of which (things unbelieveable, that is), does this custom-made crocodile-skin Remington Noiseless portable typewriter, for sale in the US for $7500, strike you as somehow strangely Hemingwayesque? It does me:
From New York magazine
One of my own former editors, Col Allan, has spent a bit of time in the Northern Territory (he married a Territorian, Sharon Bowditch, daughter of the late hard-drinking NT News editor Jim Bowditch), so he should know a thing of two about crocodile attacks.
I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised by any of the nonsense which appears under the banner of the New York Post and Vanity Fair. The latter is edited by Grayson Carter, who is a friend and admirer of Allan, now editor of the former.
However Allan, long known as "Rupert Murdoch's attack dog", is no admirer or friend of the truth. This coming Saturday we will have a Federal Election in Australia, and Murdoch has let his attack dog off his lead and sent him back to his native country. The purpose was unashamedly (Murdoch or Allan know shame? Never!) to use Murdoch's Australian newspapers to attack Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. The resulting, unspeakably horrendous onslaught, laughingly (though a very sick joke) referred to by News Ltd as "journalism", has unquestionably descended to the lowest point in the 210-year history of Australian newspapers.
Disgusting is too gentle a word for what slimebags Murdoch and Allan are doing to the democratic process in Australia.
How the dog has turned. As Lloyd Grove pointed out in his 2007 New York magazine exposé of Allan's antics, in 2003 Rudd, during an official visit to New York, "let Allan lure him to the East Side gentlemen’s club Scores, where he got so blotto he allegedly manhandled the strippers".
If Murdoch and Allan get their disgraceful way, by Saturday night we will have a new prime minister, Tony Abbott. I am reminded of the typewritten The South Polar News, written in 1910 during Robert Falcon Scott's second expedition to the South Pole. The Abbott referred to by the word "Abbottelped" was expedition member, Royal Navy Petty Officer George Percy Abbott, after whom Abbott Peak on Ross Island is named: 
The typewriting was apparently done by Scott himself, and the illustrations by Edward 'Uncle Bill' Wilson.
Expedition survivor, assistant zoologist Apsley Cherry-Garrard, is seen here at the typewriter in 1911, during Scott's last expedition:
Peaches, still aged 15, typewrote this letter to her "prince charming", "Daddy" Browning in May 1926. The letter was later introduced into the court record in New York. "Daddy said, 'Sit down and write me a love letter'," Peaches testified, "And so I did."
Perhaps one of the lowest points in US newspaper history came with the sordid Peaches Browning Affair in 1926. Frances Belle Heenan (1910-1956) married New York real estate mogul Edward West "Daddy" Browning (1875–1934) on her 16th birthday - he was 51. The rocky, short-lived marriage became one of the most sensational scandals of the Roaring 20s. "It is often cited in journalism history texts as a sign of the excesses of some newspapers during the era", says Wikipedia. Six months into "wedded bliss", Peaches "tried to obtain a divorce, and the White Plains, New York trial drew intense coverage by New York City tabloid newspapers such as the Daily News, the rival Daily Mirror and the more louche Evening Graphic, which published a notorious composograph of the couple.

"The story was soon picked up by the national newspapers, and the couple became well known in US popular culture of the time. Among the notable aspects of the case were Peaches' allegations of odd behaviour by her husband, including the fact that he kept a honking African goose in their bedroom. The phrase 'Don't be a goof', which Daddy allegedly used as an insult to Peaches, came into national vogue, and later turned up in the lyrics of the song On Your Toes by Rodgers and Hart. The judge accepted Daddy's version of the facts, ruling that Peaches had abandoned her husband without cause, and released him from the marriage. Peaches' notoriety gained her a career in vaudeville."
In 1966 a pictorial essay was done in San Francisco of university students under the influence of Lysergic acid diethylamide, better known as acid.
Mention of using LSD in student days reminds me that I chanced upon a short, interesting documentary on the life of Steve Jobs last night. There was much talk of style over substance, which made me think of typewriters. But just five days earlier I had finally succumbed to 21st century technology when my very basic mobile phone dropped dead and I decided to replace it with an iPhone - my first-ever venture into the core of Apple. That same day I happened to be at my storage unit in Fyshwick and came across my very first mobile phone, bought in Brisbane in 1995. It weighs (at 3kg) three times the iPhone!
From a brick to a feather
THEN: On an Empire Aristocrat back in The Day of the Jackal days.
Frederick Forsyth had another book, his 20th, published this week. It's called The Kill List. In an interview to promote his work, published in The Hindu Sunday Magazine, Forsyth said he still used a typewriter.
The Kill List features a hunt for a ruthless terrorist code-named The Preacher. He is being hunted by The Tracker, a former US marine. Apart from the considerable resources from the government, The Tracker is also helped by The Hacker to breach some of the most secure systems around the world (I'm not making this stuff up!). 
A few questions and answers from the interview:
Q: Do you rely on the Internet for information? A: No. There are too many inaccuracies. Also there is too much information that takes hours to go through. I prefer person-to-person interactions. I would rather go to an expert and ask what I want. Are the experts accessible? It is surprising how approachable people are if you ask them nicely!
Q: You mentioned, in one of your interviews, that you do not write on the computer. A: I prefer words on paper rather than on the screen. I would rather turn pages than scroll up or down. When I sit in front of my typewriter, I have the story pretty much in my head and then I just type it out. Any corrections, I write neatly with my pen, which the girls at the publisher can easily understand. Call me a dinosaur, but I’d like to see someone hack into my typewriter

MUCH LATER: With wedges.
For me, the most interesting sale of the month was this "ergonomically-designed" Rheinmetall portable, which was sold from Poland through German eBay. 
It attracted worldwide interest and after 33 frantic bids sold for 907 euros, or $1343. 
Leonhard Dingwerth explains about the "thumb switch machine":
The most surprising sale on Australian eBay was this Citizen X3, which sold for a staggering $187.50 after 20 bids:
Conversely, this pink Olympia SM7 only fetched $51 after two bids. Maybe the shipping cost from Mandurah in Western Australia put off some potential buyers:
That the SM7 received so little interest was all the more surprising given this poorly re-painted SM9 fetched a way-over-the-top $93:
I was interested to see that one German seller received 129 euros ($190) and 57 euros ($84) respectively for these two Gorma Kolibris (the bottom one is a Junior):
This green Torpedo Blue Bird sold in Australia for $157.50:
My lingering embarrassment over once having tried this myself was eased slightly today when I saw someone in Victoria is trying to sell 12 typewriters in one lot - but in this case the starting price is a very high $250.
Confusion continues to reign, with a Silver-Seiko Royal 200 originally listed as having been made by Olivetti in Italy ("but that's what the case says") and a Remington Quiet-Riter listed as Japanese made:


Also ran: Suki Waterhouse
Barred by the judges: Carolo Mollino's 1963 "Untitled". Carlo didn't give the image a name, but he initialed the buttocks ...


Scott K said...

Some fascinating photos. I was also very surprised by the prices on the Kolibri. Great wrap up.

Bill M said...

Love the photos. I have yet to see a photo of Hemingway with a cigar or whiskey while typing or using a battered typewriter. I guess most people think all authors are like the old cigar chomping news reporters, yet I knew no newsmen that chomped on cigars (except in the movies).

Richard P said...

Good for you, for defending typing and exploding stereotyping.

Where can I find that crocodile Remington?? I saw one (same one?) for sale back in the '90s. It was located in Vegas. This may have been in the early days of eBay.

And another question: how did you make those customized iPhone covers?

Those Daily Telegraph and Courier Mail images are awful. You'd think the public would rebel against such blatant manipulation ... but then again, maybe not.

Daumenschaltung = thumb shift.

This update is full of juicy gossip, old and new. Excellent!

shordzi said...

Cool + interesting + funny! Thanks a lot.
The thumb shift Rheinmetall is very rare indeed. The model does show up on ebay once in a while, but I had never seen a red specimen. Bravo for all this research.

Robert Messenger said...

Thank you Scott, Bill, Richard and Georg for your kind comments.
Richard, the "rare travel typewriter" is at
The iPhone covers: I bought plain, light-coloured cases and designed and printed the stickers (stickers being quicker and easier for this experiment than transfers). I experimented with different surfaces. The stickers work very well on the higher quality, firmer finishes, but transfers would have worked well on all of them, I think.
I am happy to make you some to your own design. Just let me know.
The thinking public has been repulsed by the News Ltd front pages, the non-thinking public not so much, unfortunately. I fully anticipate disaster on Saturday.

John said...

Rob, I agree with Richard P's comments regarding those images printed on the front of Murdochs rags..I just serves to remind us ofthe importance of an independent press. When I first came to Australia I ask what were the papers like and was told "if you can't read or think, but the Sun, if you read but cannot think, but the Herald and if you can read and think, buy the Age". Very little has changed since those days, if anything, it has got worse and the level of political debate has hit a new low. It is very hard not to become cynical.

Rob Bowker said...

Robert! That's not a blog post - it is a quiet evening's reading for me. Thanks. Last photo right clicked and downloaded :-) I was considering writting a (short) piece about The Dangerous Summer... about what it says about the author, the sport and his times.

Robert Messenger said...

Thank you John and Rob for your comments.
John, those Citizens type quite nicely, but there's no way I'd pay $187 for one! $45-$50 at absolute tops. At the same time, the entire Murdoch empire is not worth tuppance in my view - stinks!
Rob, I have the original Life magazine with the Dangerous Summer story in it, I might now scan it in. EH's base that summer was in a place called Coen, very close to Mijas mentioned in my "fragments" post last week.

Dwayne F. said...

Thanks for setting the record straight on writers who don't happen to be booze hounds.

The typewriter parade is interesting. The red ergonomic machine is really special. By the looks of Ted Munk's Typewriter Database, it appears that around 2,000 were made if they didn't cheat on the serial numbers.