Tuesday, August 21, 2012

type, O Writer.

I bought a typewriter a week ago last Saturday. A lovely older couple was selling their 1950s Royal Aristocrat for a modest sum on Craigslist, and my mother and I tromped out to their pleasant suburb to snatch it up. A few things I noticed immediately upon bringing it home: It is very heavy. It is very loud. It wafts a musty scent. It is sublime.
     To give you an idea of the effect this most mechanical of machines has had on me, I now quote from the first serious piece of writing I composed within its metal jaws:

So began a (thus far, brief) sort of ongoing chronicle--one of varying purport and often interspersed with absurdly long excerpts from my weathered red dictionary, each successive sentence serving me up dizzying possibilities for the next one, until I would dig myself into a pit of wordy nonsense, from which it would have been impossible to dig myself out again, if it weren't for the fact that no one was listening who didn't live in my head, and all I really had to do was notch the paper up a line and move on. When I sit before the petite grey-iron beast, I never feel short of words. There are all the letters, sitting there in front of me on their smooth green keys, positively pleading to be arranged and rearranged, plucked and plopped together into acrobatic routines of verbiage and sense.
    Oh, dear.
    It's been a wordy summer. I've read and written absurd and refreshing amounts, making up for the relative silence of my unschooled seclusion. The one book I must mention is a very long one, in an abridged edition of which I have gnawed a scarcely respectable chunk. I discovered this book via another book, which is often the way these things happen. H. L. Mencken was an American newspaper man during the first half of the twentieth century whose witty criticisms found their way into William Bennet's America, the Last Best Hope, vol. II, and so into my consciousness. I promptly--oh, the blessed public library--acquired some of his other writings, and became engrossed in the early chapters of The American Language: The Fourth Edition and the Two Supplements of the classic study of American English, abridged, with annotations and new material, by Raven I. McDavid, Jr. with the assistance of David W. Maurer. Here is a book that plunged me into a new world, as Terence Conran's Design did years ago, and has affected my eyes and ears. I had no idea that the divergence of American English from English English bore so much baggage and contention! Here are reams of undiscovered rantings, lodes of angst and amusement that I'd hardly known existed in my country's history, facets of my native tongue I'd never stood far enough away from to notice! Blurred lines of parts of speech, suffixes galore, cliche, idiom, mistransliteration, accident, coincidence, Latinization, de-Latinization, scholarship and slang-- the language of our land is as much of a melting pot as our culture. Which, of course, only makes sense.


  1. Reading your writing makes me feel like I'm reading Shakespeare. All the words are packed in so thick and intelligently... Wow. My minds not fast enough for this! :)

    1. I think I'm going through a writerly stage where it has to get more complicated before it can become more elegant. :) Here's hoping I progress promptly!