A Party for People Obsessed With Typewriters
Paul T Bradley
Typewriters are sexy!
Well, sort of.
Sunday afternoon, Venice's venerable poet headquarters Beyond Baroque hosted a Type-In featuring a dozen vintage typewriters, their vintage repairpersons and a whole slew of other typographic delights -- including typewritten poems on demand and a screening of Christopher Lockett and Gary Nicholson's documentary The Typewriter (in the 21st Century).
For those of us old enough to remember the distinctive clickety clack of the old typewriters (and that industrial oil smell), fear not, there's still a healthy subculture of typewriting enthusiasts keeping those grand old machines from becoming permanent paperweights. They run the gamut from 9-year-old collectors to Pulitzer Prize-winning authors -- all of them in healthy love with the single-function, intricately designed majesty of the typewriter.
Paul T Bradley None of these machines were owned by famous people.
While less be-in and more typewriter party, Sunday's event drew a crowd of mostly families and stragglers -- likely beckoned in by the siren-like musical clicking. While there weren't thousands of monkeys on thousands of machines trying to produce Shakespeare -- there were salads, cookies and John Lennon's typewriter.
We weren't quite impressed enough to pony up the $100 to type ourselves something on it -- but others were. One woman cheerfully read herself aloud the note she'd written on it a few times.
Venice artist Lauren "L.A." Marler spearheaded the event and beamed with enthusiasm over the merging of the literary and the artistic. She was also quite pleased with the spontaneity of her guests. "People just showed up with their typewriters," she says. "There are two girls up there who just brought in their stuff and they're typing away! It's great."
Marler's own typewriter based pop-art will be featured at the gallery through September.
While we were milling about, 10-year-old Thomas, a burgeoning typewriter hobbyist, gave us some pointers about typewriter history and the legends of the QWERTY keyboard. "It's set up like that so the typebars don't jam," he told us. "Yeah, it used to be Sholes and Glidden, 'cuz they invented it, and then they became Remington." He then proceeded to list the number of typing machines he owns and personally fixes up -- including a vintage stenography machine on display. Thomas was nonplussed when we wondered what he found so fascinating by these devices -- as if we'd asked him why water was wet.
Another major highlight of Sunday's event was the hour-long screening of The Typewriter (and yes, we watched the whole thing). Lockett's kickstarter-funded documentary kind of sold us on the whole geeky world of these typing otaku. While some of the folks featured had an almost mockable naivete -- earnestly wondering why the typewriter went out of fashion -- others recognize them for what they are: really cool antiquated devices that combine nostalgia and literary functionality.
Two soldiers profiled actually hiked their vintage machines into Afghanistan while serving there -- all for the purpose of sending neat letters home. Others were just obsessed with the mechanics -- including several repairmen who want the tradition of their craft to continue.
Perhaps that's what's so amazing about the fact that the typewriter refuses to go gently into that sweet digital night: Each one is its own printmaking machine. And it now serves as its own piece of functional art -- that also still produces art.
Either way, we'd still like to see the monkeys give it a go. Maybe next year?