30 January 2010

In memory of the cranky and elusive Mr. Salinger

Franny and Zooey is one of my all-time favorite books. The dialogue is always the best bit. And as I was re-reading that novella last night, I came across a particularly memorable passage that, once I had finished, I turned off the bedside lamp and went to sleep:

"'I know this much, is all,' Franny said. 'If you're a poet, you do something beautiful. I mean you're supposed to leave something beautiful after you get off the page and everything. The ones you're talking about don't leave a single, solitary thing beautiful. All that maybe the slightly better ones do is sort of get inside your head and leave something there, but just because they do, just because they know how to leave something, it doesn't have to be a poem, for heaven's sake. It may just be some kind of terribly fascinating, syntaxy droppings--excuse the expression. Like Manlius and Esposito and all those poor men.'"

Well said, J.D.

27 January 2010

Ode to the Obsolete

I recently adopted a typewriter: a 1955 Remington manual typewriter (found and acquired for free thanks to the Kent Freecycle network--see link in right margin). Ever since reading Words In Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell last year, I have had this desire to write with a typewriter. It is really a magical piece of machinery. I imagine it as being halfway between a letterpress and a word processor, but mechanically it is a very different beast altogether.

When I was testing my new old typewriter out, I felt like I was learning to play a new musical instrument. It even looks a little like a piano under the hood. Although the keyboard resembles those belonging to our modern computers, if you try to type as fast as you are used to with a computer keyboard, the letter-legs are likely to become tangled. So my first lesson was to type one key at a time--slow down a bit.

Another thing, there is actually quite a bit of space between the keys, enough so that your fingers can actually slip down between them. So my second lesson was to type more carefully, to aim more accurately with my key-pressing.

Finally, after a typewriter has been hibernating a while the ink ribbon tends to dry up a bit. This ribbon still had a bit of ink left in it but it was very faded. Amazingly enough though, people still make new ribbons for typewriters. So I have ordered two spools of what I hope is the right size/type of typewriter ribbon. Then I will have my third lesson: changing the ink ribbon. It doesn't seem to be too difficult, just a little more involved than popping a new cartridge into the inkjet. I found some really neat
how-to videos online and I think I'll be able to handle it.