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Tuesday 23 June 2020

What's Gypsy Rose Lee Got To Do With World Typewriter Day? Women Writers and Their Typewriters

Which of these two scenes most closely resembles your Coronavirus quarantine living conditions on World Typewriter Day? To be honest, the second is where we're at (I'll get to the reason for the first image later). But one benefit of being laid up with a broken sternum is that I now have plenty of time to read. And I'm going to need it. Each time we get a new New Yorker magazine in the post and read the "Briefly Noted" section, there's at least two or three new books to add to our "must read" list. The more so when there are typewriting writers involved. The latest additions to our ever growing list are The Equivalents by Maggie Doherty and My Autobiography of Carson McCullers by Jenn Shapland.

The New Yorker's brief review of The Equivalents read, "Founded in 1960, the Radcliffe Institute for Independent Study, part of Harvard’s sister college, offered financial support and other resources to women with doctoral degrees or the artistic 'equivalent'. This deft history charts the relationships among five of the earliest fellows: the poets Anne Sexton and Maxine Kumin, the painter Barbara Swan, the sculptor Marianna Pineda, and the writer Tillie Olsen. Doherty relates their often fraught intimacies in detail, emphasising how these dynamics prefigured currents in American feminism and culture. The women’s shared story shows both the potential and the limitations of a 'room of one’s own' as a liberating force."
Sexton and Kumin were close friends who didn't mind being photographed with their typewriters: 
 And, as a bonus, Madonna's homage to Sexton:
The New Yorker wrote of My Autobiography of Carson McCullers, "Aiming to construct a new mode of lesbian history, the author combines research into the sexual life of Carson McCullers with an account of her own coming-out experiences. McCullers was drawn to the 'misfits' of Southern society, including black, gay or disabled people; she never hid her love of women, and surrounded herself with queer artists such as Tennessee Williams, Gypsy Rose Lee and Paul and Jane Bowles. Shapland, who believes that McCullers has been retroactively closeted by peers and biographers, asserts that 'queer embodiment, like Carson’s, like mine, requires a presence, a negotiation with publicness'. Accordingly, she finds herself 'hunting for lesbians' in the literary world - an investigation that yields an unpretentious, moving record of love at the margins."
As with Sexton and Kumin, McCullers, Williams (most especially) and Gypsy Rose Lee were fond of being photographed with typewriters. So that's our excuse for running these images on this day. In the photo at the top of the post, the burlesque dancer is seen in her trailer-dressing room during her Royal American Shows traveling carnival engagement in Memphis, Tennessee, in May 1949. She dictated letters to her secretary Brandy Bryant, who also performed in the show:
Gypsy Rose Lee at work on her memoir in 1956:

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