Friday, December 4, 2009

Creative Typing

Two stories from the literary landscape that caught my attention.

The surprisingly popular novelist Cormac McCarthy is auctioning off his well-loved Olivetti Lettera 32 typewriter. McCarthy, who recently wrote the apocalyptic bestseller "The Road" and years earlier wrote the fascinating and slightly less apocalyptic "Suttree," has used this machine exclusively for his entire writing life. He estimates that more than 5 million words flowed through its keys - his entire professional output plus several unpublished works. Bought for a mere $50 in 1963, McCarthy is hoping that the sale of the Olivetti will fetch $20,000 or more for the Santa Fe Institute, a nonprofit scientific research organization. McCarthy has already replaced the worn typewriter with a newer copy of the very same machine.

Fantagraphics, the Seattle publisher heretofore known strictly for publishing comic books, has taken up the challenge of publishing the newest collection of short stories by Stephen Dixon. Dixon, also known for composing on a manual typewriter, is a strange and compulsive writer whose fictions tend to feature neurotic men and their families. He has published hundreds of stories in dozens of collections, some great and some merely very good. The new book, entitled "What Is All This?" is a 900-page compendium of uncollected stories from throughout his career. Dixon is a masterful writer who deserves a wider readership, and it will be interesting to see how this experiment pans out. Will Fantagraphics bring his work to a larger audience? Will they establish themselves as viable publishers of non-comic literature? I'll pick up a copy for sure - that's 1.

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