TypeTown #32: "This typewriter became a fetish object for me..."
🇨🇦 Margaret Atwood, Tom Sharpe, Konrad Klapheck and more...
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We’ve been wondering all week how to get today’s TypeTown off to a great start. Then Margaret Atwood came along and put a rocket up our backside.
"If I waited for perfection... I would never write a word.”
So here we are, crashing headfirst into a figure who has emerged as one of the most prominent authors of our time.
And it all began, in the mid-1950s, with a 1930s Remington portable her mom had originally used to type her dad’s PhD thesis.
“This typewriter became a fetish object for me soon after I decided - at age 16 - that I would become a writer.”
By the 1960s, Atwood was publishing her first book of poetry and ending the decade with The Edible Woman, the first of her 17 novels.
In the 1970s, she combined her fiction with roles at two different Toronto universities. And her fame in Canadian literary circles soon began to grow.
"A word after a word after a word is power."
Along the way, she switched from a manual portable to an electric portable and finally to a Selectric.
But because that machine was too heavy to transport, she rented typewriters while travelling overseas.
And thus it was in West Berlin in 1984 that she tapped out the first few pages of The Handmaid’s Tale.
Today, she is a global figure, propelled to megastardom by the TV adaptation of that work.
But one thing still nags away.
“I’ve been eyeing my old electric typewriters. Can they possibly still work? Shall I try?”
We all know the answer to that.
READ» Margaret Atwood’s Writing Routine: “All writers feel struck by the limitations of language.” - Famous Writing Routines
READ» How Margaret Atwood Learned to Type - The Walrus
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Meet British satirical novelist Tom Sharpe, hunched over his typewriter here in 1997 as he lights a cigar and prepares to poke fun at another unwitting subject.
Educated at Cambridge and a former Royal Marine, Sharpe was at home where many weren’t.
He was born in London. He moved to South Africa to teach in his twenties. And he spent his last two decades living under the Spanish sun in the Catalonian coastal town Llafranc.
But wherever he went, his sense of mischief always followed.
"All is fair in love, war and tax evasion."
Described by one critic as “very funny - but exceptionally vulgar, crude and offensive”, Sharpe left his mark with Portherhouse Blue, Blott on the Landscape, and Wilt - all of which were adapted for TV in the 1980s.
READ» Tom Sharpe obituary - The Guardian
READ» Tom Sharpe - The London Column
READ» Comic writer Tom Sharpe inspired by WWI trench humour - Reuters
Sage against the machine
From Spain it’s just a short hop to Germany, where 88-year-old painter Konrad Klapheck has made a lifetime’s career out of his magic realism.
For the large part his work has been focused on machines, with more than 40 paintings of typewriters among his output.
In June 2019, one of his images of a sewing machine fetched a cool €586,000 at auction.
But we here all know the typewriter stuff is priceless.
Take a tour of some his work:
READ» A Conversation with Konrad Klapheck - Harvard Art Museums
READ» L’HOMME MACHINE: THE ART OF KONRAD KLAPHECK - ARTFORUM
Worth pausing the platen
📬 Londonderry typewriter museum gets VIP Translink treatment - BBC News
📬 You, too, can own one of Larry McMurty’s beloved typewriters - Literary Hub
📬 Blast from the past: The typewriter - Belfast Newsletter
📬 The Last Word: Typewriters - CTV News Vancouver
And finally… typewriters in the wild
In this observation from British TV personality and author Richard Osman…
In this 1952 image from the funeral of of King George VI…
And in this latest addition to the world’s typewriter tattoos…
Until next time
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Great episode, and thanks for the video with the interview with Margaret Atwood: she always finds the exact words to say everything.