December 1, 2009

Cormac McCarthy’s Olivetti Lettera 32 for sale

This morning I read in the NYTimes that Cormac McCarthy is auctioning off his Olivetti Lettera 32. The auction is being handled by Christie's, if you would like to bid on it. The proceeds will be donated to the Sante Fe Institue. He agreed to retire his typewriter when a friend offered to buy him another. The replacement cost around $30, with shipping making up almost 2/3 of the total cost.

I have a soft spot in my heart for manual typewriters. I love the sound of the keys, and for a time in college had the Desk Accessory for my Mac that added the sound of a typewriter to each stroke of the keyboard.

Growing up, I typed reports on an old Alder "portable" typewriter that I almost needed help carrying, it was so heavy. Once I laid out a tri-fold brochure on careers in long-distance trucking and carefully typed out each side carefully on the machine.

It wasn't an easy typewriter to use. A certain amount of force was necessary to press the keys, and occasionally my fingers would slip and get caught between the keys. Extricating my fingers was a delicate operation.

For years I wanted to buy an Underwood typewriter just to have on my shelf. Unfortunately, my apartment's too small to have knick knacks like that lying around, but someday it'd be a nice thing to have. When I was just starting out as a jacket designer I even remember admiring the cover for Stephen Dobyns' Best Words, Best Order: Essays on Poetry for its use of a closeup photograph of typewriter keys juxtaposed with a bed of nails (perhaps it reminded me of all those writing workshops in college).

My mother had an electric typewriter. I was be amazed at how quickly she could type and also at the strong electric hum that would emanate from the typewriter whenever she switched it on. It seemed then the height of technology, and I longed for the day that I would be able to command it.

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