I ordered this book from Amazon today:“The Iron Whim: A Fragmented History of the Typewriter” (Cornell) by Darren Wershler-Henry
And found this article about it:
Looks like there’ll be some fascinating stuff in there, which will inform my proposal no end. I’m especially interested in the stuff about sexuality and discourse, mentioned in TNY article:
“Wershler-Henry follows the fortunes of the typewriter into the twentieth century, with special emphasis on the role of women in the story. In the beginning, few people imagined that anyone would compose at the machine. The user of the typewriter would be an amanuensis—in other words, a secretary—taking dictation from another person. Accordingly, in the early days the word “typewriter” was used to mean not just the machine but the person plying it. That person, the Remington folks assumed, would be a woman. (The flowers printed on the casing of the early models were to make the mechanism seem friendly to the weaker sex.) Remington’s prediction was correct. It was often as typists that women poured into the professional workforce at the turn of the century. By 1910, according to the Census Bureau, eighty-one per cent of professional typists were female. Guardians of the social order warned that this development would have baleful consequences. It would unsex women; it would spell the end of the American family. They were right, in part. Together with other social changes, the availability of typing jobs no doubt did weaken the family’s hold on women. As for unsexing them, the effect was the opposite. Wershler-Henry documents the entry of the “typewriter girl” into the iconography of early-twentieth-century pornography. He also gives us illustrations, from the so-called Tijuana Bibles, dirty comic books produced in Mexico, starting in the nineteen-thirties, for the American market. In one panel, a three-piece-suited executive, staring at his secretary’s thigh, says, “Miss Higby, are you ready for—ahem!—er—dictation?” Such a situation did not lead swiftly to Miss Higby’s empowerment, but for a woman to have a job, any job, outside the home was part of the humble beginnings of twentieth-century feminism.”
Today’s thoughts are mostly inspired by spinning all the plates: trying to maintain the smiling face of tech support, anxiously awaiting emails hopefully detailing postgrad interviews, and all the while dreaming about tea and typewriters.
Yesterday, myself and my esteemed companion drove to the wilds of West Wickham to collect the below Underwood #5, which we dated via its serial number to 1917. I feel pretty blown away that something so old actually still functions, and functions well. It is reassuringly heavy. It imprinted itself on my person as I cradled it, all the way home. Its carriage return ‘bell’ still sounds after almost a century.
I found myself thinking, as I always do, that I wish I could track its history. Whose home or office has it sat in? What news has it recorded? Did it communicate happy congratulations, or tidings of hope in difficult times?
It started off rainy today, and I felt cold, damp, loathe to move, uncertain about facing a day or retail. The sun has come out now, slowly; and its emergence has encouraged me to think about all the things that are ahead, and all the good things that give me hope.
The other thought that is taking up much of my mind at present is my approaching *Significant Birthday.* I am a bit of a sucker for celebration, and something stubborn in me wants to celebrate three decades of creating, exploring and surviving. So I am compiling a list of thirty things I want to achieve/experience in the next year. One of those is that a friend told me that it is now possible to stay in the flat above the Garage at Monk’s House in Sussex. This thought really appeals to me, or at least renting a draughty old cottage somewhere wild and abandoned, by the sea, in order to focus on some writing.
Motionless, asleep they are,
the thirty round whites.
Amongst them all
they sustain the world.
Look at them here in their dream,
rotund, whites and within
destinies of thunder and lightning,
destinies of slow falling rain,
of snow, of wind, signs.
Wake them up,
with bouncing touches
of quick fingers, light,
liking to ancient music.
They play another kind of music:
fantasies of metal
hard waltzes, upon dictation.
That they may rise up since centuries
all equal, distinct
like the waves of the sea
and a great secret soul.
That they may believe that it is a letter,
the formula, as always.
Get really crazy
with your fingers, kidnapping
them and launching them,
the thirty, eternal nymphs
against the great empty world,
white on white.
Finally at the pure exploit,
without words, without sense,
s, z, j, i…