This is the first test this evening of a bookplate design. A lino cut of my Underwood 5, and text printed by hand using some type I bought off eBay a few years ago. I made the text block by clamping the letters and spaces together with duck tape. I’m using oil based block printing ink, and rubbing the back of the paper with a bone letter opener. The text block is simply stamped on by hand. I do love making things completely by hand. Don’t let the lack of a printing press stop you from making prints at home.
Yes! It’s a photo of a machine I’m happy to be addicted to. Also, I finally got around to taking some nothing else in the background shots of my Underwood Five.
What a massive hunk of machine with only one purpose. “I’m here to serve your every writing need. I promise not to distract you, or judge you. I promise I never even thought about trying to spy on your friends or track your every step around town. I won’t measure your waking hours or interrupt you when you are eating with friends and family or reading a book. I’m yours, I’m just waiting for you. Whenever you’re ready.”
Imagine what the makers of this machine would make of that imagined typewriter dialogue. They would be shocked, horrified. Amused? Bewildered? What kind of world has this machine travelled to? One in which we do still have a choice. It’s worth clinging onto choices.
I haven’t had my Remington Portable on the desk for ages. One of its old issues was letter piling so I typed a page of random words to see what was what. Only a couple of instances of piling. Usually the more I use this machine the less it piles letters
I’m always keen to increase my vocabulary. I remember the first time I heard the word “realtor” and I thought huh?! I must have been about 20. Before that I assumed the Brits and Americans were speaking basically the same language with merely a large expanse of water between us. Then I learned what “rubber” meant and that it’s not for correcting mistakes on your life drawing. Oh no. And how could anyone say “fanny” in public without blushing?! Well probably me. But I blush for others.
If we read these books we (my kids and I) usually ended up having a talk about sexism and racism at some point and how different the stories might be today. I would not have chosen the books myself but if you give children free choice at the bookshop I think it’s worth exploring historical texts, and learning to say “Aunt Fanny” and “Dick” without cracking up mid-sentence is a life skill it’s never too late to learn.
Though I’m pleased with the way this brother turned out, I’m just not in love with the plastic shell. During cleaning I noticed that the body sported some redundant screw holes and tabs and so I’ll be interested to see if I can swap out the plastic for a spare metal shell I have (nicer design and also blue!) That’s a job for another day though. For now I have a few letters to write to put this machine back into proper use. I treated it to a new ribbon all its own too. There’s nothing like a clean typewriter with a new ribbon.
Or, how to take the shell off your brother without dismantling the machine.
Remove the two screws under either side of the carriage on the plastic frame. You will need a flat head screwdriver. Prise the plastic shell up from the plastic base. It will resist with as much force as a teenager confronted with a hot shower and soap. Be firm but understand its point of view. Engage shift. Slide carriage all the way to the right. Lift the shell up and over the carriage.
I once saw a YouTube video of a guy struggling to get the shell off a Lettera 32. He ended up removing the carriage lock or something. I don’t know, it was too painful to watch all the way through. The same basic procedure here can be followed for a Lettera 22 or 32. ( And it was my previous experience in Letteras that meant I wasn’t fazed by this hunk of plastic )
What I want every person to remember about Shere Hite is not the paraphrasing of an undeniably sexist ad campaign, but the monumental body of work she completed over her lifetime which allowed women ( and by extension the people those women chose to have sex with) all over the world to have nicer, better, more enjoyable and satisfying sex lives. She changed things up, for the better, by first giving women a voice through her work, helping to eradicate shame and embarrassment about something perfectly normal and healthy. She opened up the idea that we could redefine what sex meant to us through our own diverse desires. The questionnaire she initially sent out in the early seventies seems out of date in places where it centres on heterosexual relationships and marriage, but you have to allow that as a given, most people would not talk openly about sex, or name the parts of their bodies or even necessarily know their bodies in intimate detail at the time. However, if you take a look at the questionnaire it is still incredibly relevant in 2020. I took the time to type up all the questions relevant to me, and answered them in full. The penultimate question says, “Is there anything on your mind you would like to speak about which was left untouched by the questionnaire? If so, please add it here.” Whenever the opportunity to re-evaluate comes along, I say take it, and don’t worry how long you take. Thank you, Shere Hite. Sisters are still doing it for themselves.
Shere Hite, writer, sex researcher, legend. Obituary in the guardian well worth a read. Disappointing that her work is so hard to get hold of in hard copy at the moment but digital formats are available. The free sample of The Hite Report available on the Apple Books app includes the questionnaire used for The Hite Report in full.
Shere Hite modelled for an ad campaign by Olivetti. The strapline was, “The typewriter that’s so smart she doesn’t have to be” She was not impressed. I’m not including a copy of that picture here, for two reasons: I can’t find it, and I wouldn’t anyway. We can all be intelligent enough to hug our own Olivettis these days.
My copy of Backspaces arrived this morning and I’m so excited. I can’t wait to read all the contributions – a whole book of stories about time-travel written entirely on typewriters? Still pinching myself ( Many many many thanks to everyone who made this project happen). Here it is with the Underwood I used to type my story on. Ok, got to go and put the kettle on and read now!
The revolution (in publishing) will be typewritten.