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Friday, 1 April 2016

Is Not the Typewriter Mightier Than the Gun? Achieving the Ultimate (Typewriter) Revolution, by Richard Armour

Beating nuclear bombs
into typewriters
At a time like this, when the world is more violent than ever, it seems appropriate (on April Fool's Day) to lighten up a bit and reproduce American poet and author Richard Armour's article from The New York Times of December 18, 1971: 
Richard Armour

One tiny mistake: Armour got Samuel SoulĂ©'s second initial wrong - it was not "S" but "W", as in Willard, Armour's own second name.
Richard Willard Armour (July 15, 1906-February 28, 1989) was born in San Pedro, Los Angeles, California. He attended Pomona College and Harvard University, where he studied with the eminent Shakespearean scholar George Lyman Kittredge and obtained a PhD in English philology. He eventually became Professor of English at Scripps College and the Claremont Graduate School in Claremont, California. Armour wrote humorous poems - light verse - in a style reminiscent of Ogden Nash. These poems were often featured in newspaper Sunday supplements in a feature called "Armour's Armory". Armour also wrote satirical books, such as Twisted Tales from Shakespeare, and his ersatz history of the United States, It All Started With Columbus. These books were typically filled with puns and plays on words, and gave the impression of someone who had not quite been paying attention in class, thus also getting basic facts not quite right, to humorous effect. As an example: "In an attempt to take Baltimore, the British attacked Fort McHenry, which protected the harbour. Bombs were soon bursting in air, rockets were glaring, and all in all it was a moment of great historical interest. During the bombardment, a young lawyer named Francis 'Off' Key wrote The Star-Spangled Banner, and when, by the dawn's early light, the British heard it sung, they fled in terror!" Armour's books are typically written in a style parodying dull academic tomes, with many footnotes (funny in themselves), fake bibliographies, quiz sections and glossaries. This style was pioneered by the British humorists W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman with their parody of British history 1066 and All That in the 1930s. A preface of one book noted "The reader will not encounter any half-truths, but may occasionally encounter a truth-and-a-half."

1 comment:

Richard P said...

Delightful, thanks!