I bought a typewriter off of Craig’s List today. It’s a manual Smith Corona Galaxie XII that I picked up from a house on a Portland side street for thirty bucks. I’m fairly well convinced that it’s quite possibly one of the more beautiful objects I’ve ever owned. Off the top of my head, the only thing that comes close is a powder blue Kramer electric guitar or maybe my Sage fly rod–well, not actually the rod itself but rather its smooth cork handle.
Technically the typewriter isn’t mine. I bought it as a prop for an upcoming scene of our feature film project, Vintage, which is about a washed up writer. Interesting that all of the main characters I write are often washed up writers of some sort or another.
It’s been a long while since I’ve hammered out any prose, being absorbed as I have by our ongoing documentary project and various other efforts, the job, family and occasional fishing trips notwithstanding. But when I brought the Smith Corona home and took it out of its case, laying it on the dining room table, I was struck with the overwhelming urge to try to become Ernest Hemingway again. There’s something about the smooth keys, the elegant slope of them rising up to the platen, the swinging arc of the keybars and that musical, mechanical thunk as they slam home. A typewriter is a thing of beauty and it makes you want to write with an urgency that a laptop or yellow legal pad just can’t inspire.
We live in an era of disposable objects. Our iPhones and MacBooks are lovely, but they’re designed with planned obsolescence in mind. They’re meant to be discarded after a couple years. But a manual Smith Corona, with it’s metal shell, steel keys, rugged case and anvil-like heft is an object that is built to withstand the ages.
Sitting in front of this old typewriter. Just breathing in the oil, ink and metal smell of it, made me fell more like a writer than I have in quite some time.