Typewriter of the moment: Noir novelist David Goodis

July 7, 2014

Somerset Maugham at his typewriter.  Image from Jon Winokur's

David Goodis at his typewriter. Image from Jon Winokur’s “Advice to Writers”

What a writer’s desk!  A manual typewriter (Royal? I think so); a fountain pen and a bottle of ink; a solid cigarette lighter and a half-full ashtray.  Judging by the papers on the desk, I’d say he’s working on a screenplay (from the format), and the buildings outside the window look a lot like the Warner Bros. studio lot.

Jon Winokur’s Tweet with noir novelist David Goodis at his typewriter noted Somerset Maugham’s classic statement about writing novels:

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

Did Winokur think the photo was of Maugham? (I found the photo also at an article on Maugham at Oz.Typewriter; I left a comment for Robert Messenger.)

Who is David Goodis? He wrote Dark Passage, which is probably famous mostly for the movie version starring a young Humphrey Bogart.

David Loeb Goodis (March 2, 1917 – January 7, 1967) was an American writer of crime fiction, noted for his prolific output of short stories and novels epitomizing the noir fiction genre. A native of Philadelphia, Goodis alternately resided there and in New York City and Hollywood during his professional years. Yet, throughout his life he maintained a deep identification with the city of his birth, Philadelphia. Goodis cultivated the skid row neighborhoods of his home town, using what he observed to craft his hard-boiled sagas of lives gone wrong, realized in dark portrayals of a blighted urban landscape teeming with criminal life and human despair.

“Despite his [university] education, a combination of ethnicity (Jewish) and temperament allowed him to empathize with outsiders: the working poor, the unjustly accused, fugitives, criminals.” [1]

From 1939 to the middle of the 1940s, Goodis wrote perhaps 5 million words in stories for pulp fiction magazines, an output rivaled by few, if anyone.  Unlike his contemporaries, Dashiell Hamett and Raymond Chandler, Goodis’s work escaped reprinting.

During the 1940s, Goodis scripted for radio adventure serials, including Hop Harrigan, House of Mystery, and Superman. Novels he wrote during the early 1940s were rejected by publishers, but in 1942 he spent some time in Hollywood as one of the screenwriters on Universal’s Destination Unknown. His big break came in 1946 when his novel Dark Passage was serialized in The Saturday Evening Post, published by Julian Messner and filmed for Warner Bros. with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall heading the cast. Delmer Daves directed what is now regarded as a classic film noir, and a first edition of the 1946 hardcover is valued at more than $800.

Arriving in Hollywood, Goodis signed a six-year contract with Warner Brothers, working on story treatments and scripts. In 1947, Goodis wrote the script for The Unfaithful, a remake of Somerset Maugham‘s The Letter. Some of his scripts were never produced, such as Of Missing Persons and an adaptation of Raymond Chandler‘s The Lady in the Lake. Working with director Delmer Daves, he wrote a screen treatment for a film, Up Till Now, which Daves described as “giving people a look at themselves and their [American] heritage”. This film too was never made but Goodis used some of its elements in his 1954 novel, The Blonde on the Street Corner.[3]

Goodis is also credited with writing the screenplay to The Burglar, a 1957 film noir directed by Paul Wendkos that was based on his 1953 novel published by Lion Books. It was the only solely authored screenplay to be produced by him. The film was written and directed by Philadelphians, as well as being shot in Philadelphia. Dan Duryea and Jayne Mansfield were cast in the lead roles, and The Burglar still stands as one of the greatest heist films ever made. It was re-made in 1971 by Henri Verneuil as the French-Italian film Le Casse, starring Omar Sharif.

 


Typewriter of the moment: Thomas Merton

April 16, 2014

Thomas Merton's typewriter, at Bellarmine University

Thomas Merton’s typewriter, at Bellarmine University; image from Spiritual Travels blog. Photo by Lori Erickson

One of Thomas Merton’s typewriters sits on display at the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University, in Louisville, Kentucky.

Who? You remember, the guy who wrote The Seven Storey Mountain.

Thomas Merton, O.C.S.O. (January 31, 1915 – December 10, 1968) was an American Catholic writer and mystic. A Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani, Kentucky, he was a poet, social activist, and student of comparative religion. In 1949, he was ordained to the priesthood and given the name Father Louis.[1][2][3]

Merton wrote more than 70 books, mostly on spirituality, social justice and a quiet pacifism, as well as scores of essays and reviews, including his best-selling autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain (1948), which sent scores of World War II veterans, students, and even teenagers flocking to monasteries across the US,[4][5] and was also featured in National Reviews list of the 100 best non-fiction books of the century.[6] Merton was a keen proponent of interfaith understanding. He pioneered dialogue with prominent Asian spiritual figures, including the Dalai Lama, the Japanese writer D.T. Suzuki, and the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh. Merton has also been the subject of several biographies.

It’s a French typewriter, by Royal, with French characters available for use.

Closeup of Thomas Merton's Royal Typewriter; The Thomas Merton Center

Closeup of Thomas Merton’s Royal typewriter, showing some of the special characters available for French; The Thomas Merton Center

 

More:  

Another typewriter displayed by the Thomas Merton Center. One of Merton's?

Another typewriter displayed by the Thomas Merton Center. One of Merton’s?


Typewriter of the moment: Stanley Kubrick’s

June 6, 2013

Stanley Kubrick's typewriter on Instagram, from sophireaptress.

Stanley Kubrick’s typewriter used in “The Shining” on Instagram, from sophireaptress.

It’s an Adler, but Instagram isn’t built for details, you know?

The typewriter is probably on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Kubrick Exhibit, which closes June 30, 2013 (hurry!).

More:

Save

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Typewriter of the moment: An old one, manual or electric (yours?)

October 25, 2012

Typewriter

A manual, Royal typewriter (Photo by mikeymckay)

It’s enough to make an old typewriter guy drive to Arizona, for more than the air (with a stop in Albuquerque at the Owl Cafe for an Owl burger, of course).

Polymath reporter Bill Geist from CBS News reported this piece for Sunday Morning, in February, featuring Mesa Typewriter Exchange in Arizona, and more:

Where is that movie on typewriters“The Typewriter in the 21st Century.”  Geist was poaching on their material a bit, wasn’t he?

Bring on the movie!

More:


Encore typewriter of the moment: Mencken and the 1948 conventions

September 4, 2012


Mencken at 1948 Democratic Convention

Mencken at 1948 Democratic Convention

Photo from the collection of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, at the Park Library, University of North Carolina.

H. L. Mencken at one of the 1948 political conventions (Thomas Dewey was the Republican nominee, Harry S. Truman was the Democratic nominee). Obviously the photo is a copy from the National Press Club Library. The Park Library site describes the photo and Mencken:

H. L. Mencken (1880-1956) was a familiar figure at many national political conventions. This photo, taken at the one in 1948, was his last political convention. He is well known for his attacks on American taste and culture, or the lack of same. His magnum opus, The American Language: An Inquiry into the Development of English in the United States, was first published in 1919 and remains a classic. From 1906 to 1941, he worked chiefly as a reporter, editor, and columnist for the Baltimore Sun. (Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Sun Library.)

Assuming Mencken covered both conventions, this photo was taken at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia in mid-July, 1948. We know it was taken in Philadelphia since both parties held their conventions there that year, the Republicans from June 21 to June 26, and the Democrats from July 12 to July 14.

Republicans nominated New York Gov. Thomas J. Dewey and California Gov. Earl Warren for president and vice president.

After a contentious convention that saw Minneapolis Mayor Hubert H. Humphrey propose a civil rights plank that got South Carolina Gov. Strom Thurmond to walk out of the convention and found his own States’ Rights (Dixiecrat) Party (with himself as the nominee for president), and former Vice President Henry Wallace walk out because the party platform was too conservative (Wallace ran on the Socialist Progressive Party ticket), Democrats nominated President Harry S Truman and Kentucky Sen. Alben W. Barkley for president and vice president. Truman narrowly defeated Georgia Sen. Richard B. Russell for the nomination. Had Thurmond not walked out, Truman may well have lost the nomination of his own party.

And the rest of the story?

Estes Kefauver on the cover of Time, with a coonskin cap

Sen. Estes Kefauver

  • Truman had a contentious second term, and was defeated in the New Hampshire primary in 1952 by Sen. Estes Kefauver; Truman ended his campaign for a second full term shortly after.
  • Earl Warren was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by Truman’s successor, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in late 1953. Warren is remembered for engineering the 9-0 decision in Brown vs. Topeka Board of Educationwhich ruled “separate but equal” school systems to violate the Constitution’s equal protection clause, and for his chairing the commission that investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

    Earl Warren on cover of Life Magazine

    Earl Warren on the cover of Life Magazine, May 10, 1948; copyright Time-Life

  • Hubert Humphrey moved on to the U.S. Senate, served as Vice President to Lyndon Johnson, and won the Democratic nomination for president in another contentious convention in 1968 in Chicago. Humphrey lost the election to Richard Nixon, and returned to the U.S. Senate two years later.
  • Strom Thurmond won election to the U.S. Senate in 1954, switching parties to Republican in 1964, and serving until his death in 2003.
  • Russell, who had served as Georgia’s senator since 1933, continued to serve to his death on January 21, 1971; he was a key member of the Warren Commission that investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The Russell Senate Office Building is named in his honor, the oldest of the three Senate office buildings.
  • Barkley was the oldest vice president ever inaugurated, aged 71. He remarried in his first year as vice president (his first wife died in 1947). Barkley’s nephew suggested that he should be called “the veep” because “Mr. Vice President” was too long. The title was seized up on by headline writers. Considered too old to run for the presidency in 1952, Barkley won a U.S. Senate seat from Kentucky in the 1954 elections, serving from 1955 to his death in 1956. Barkley Dam on the Cumberland River is named in his honor, as is the lake behind it, Lake Barkley.
  • Henry Wallace finished a distant fourth in the 1948 election, behind Dewey and Thurmond. His political career was essentially over due to his inability or unwillingness to disavow communist support. He achieved success as a chicken breeder. In a daramatic turnabout, he wrote a book, Where I Was Wrong, disavowing communism and critical of Joseph Stalin, and endorsed Republican candidates in 1956 and 1960. He died of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in 1965.
  • Dewey returned to his law practice. In 1952, Dewey helped engineer the nomination of Eisenhower over his old political nemesis Sen. Robert Taft of Ohio, pushed Richard Nixon as the Vice Presidential nominee, and in 1956 first convinced Ike to run again, and then to keep Nixon on the ticket. Dewey politely refused offers of offices, including refusing a nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, sticking to his law practice which made him very wealthy. He died suddenly of a heart attack in 1971, at age 68.
  • Mencken suffered a stroke later in 1948 that left him unable to speak, or read, or write for a time. He spent much of the rest of his life working to organize his papers, and died in 1956. His epitaph, on his tombstone and on a plaque in the lobby of the Baltimore Sun, reads: “If, after I depart this vale, you ever remember me and have thought to please my ghost, forgive some sinner, and wink your eye at some homely girl.”

This is an encore post.  Some new links have been added — though, as you can see, I don’t yet have a better photo of Mencken at the conventions.  More news sources, below.

More, Other Sources:


Typewriter anniversary: July 23, 1829, William Austin Burt’s “typographer”

July 23, 2012

An encore post, history we need to remember.

National Typewriter Day, July 23?  Type a letter to your mom, to celebrate.

William Austin Burt received a patent on a typographer on July 23, 1829 — signed personally by President Andrew Jackson.

First patent issued for a typewriter, July 23, 1829, to William Austin Burt -- signed by Andrew Jackson

Image of the first patent issued for a typewriter, July 23, 1829, to William Austin Burt, a Michigan surveyor and inventor. It was signed personally by President Andrew Jackson.

The typographer is considered the forerunner to the typewriter.

Burt’s chief reputation came from his work as a surveyor in Michigan. He discovered the massive iron ore deposits for which Michigan became famous, the iron that fueled much of American industrialization in the 19th and 20th centuries. He discovered one of the world’s largest deposits of copper, the Calumet and Hecla Mine. He invented the solar compass, to survey areas where iron deposits made magnetic compasses inaccurate.

English: Typographer patent 1829 by William Au...

 

Patent drawing of W. A. Burt’s typographer, the first patented typewriter – Wikimedia image

Some of Burt’s biographies do not mention his invention of the typewriter.

Burt was born in an era of great technological development and invention. People in all walks of life invented devices to aid their work, or just for the joy of invention. Even future president Abraham Lincoln invented a device to float cargo boats in shallow water, hoping to increase river commerce to his home county, Sangamon County, Illinois.

William Austin Burt

William Austin Burt (Photo: Wikipedia)

Burt invented devices to aid his work in surveying, a very important service industry in frontier America. Because surveyors often worked on the frontier, they were famous for discovering natural resources in the course of their work. So it was that Burt, working in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, found his magnetic compasses spinning wildly. Suspecting a natural phenomenon, Burt ordered his crew to look for ferrous rocks, and they quickly determined they were in an area rife with iron deposits.

It was to further surverying in such areas that Burt invented the solar compass.

Even uninteresting frontiersmen could lead lives that fascinate us today. Was it Burt’s inventiveness that led him to such a life as a surveyor, or was it his work that pushed him to invent?

First typewritten letter, 1829 - Wikimedia Image

First letter ever written on a typewriter, in 1829 — to Martin Van Buren, then Vice President of the U.S., and future president. Notice the letter was written nearly two months prior to the patent being issued on the device upon which it was written. Wikimedia image


Walter Cronkite – gone three years

July 17, 2012

Walter Cronkite died on July 17, 2009.

I miss his broadcasts, still, and they were gone a good 20 years earlier.

Here’s an earlier post on Cronkite:

Walter Cronkite at his office typewriter:

Walter Cronkite at his typewriter, in his office

Walter Cronkite at his typewriter, in his office – from The Typewriter blog

Pipe rack to his left, on the shelf above; full set of the Encyclopedia Britannica to his right (probably a 1960s set); A lot of books, some dealing with space exploration, among his favorite topics; models of the X-15 and early versions of the Space Shuttle; award from the Boy Scouts to his right, where he can see it easily.

When was this photo taken? 1970s? Earlier? Maybe someone who follows Dixie Cups could date the cup to Cronkite’s left.

This is probably the same office, redecorated, and stripped down to move – and with a different typewriter (a Smith-Corona electric?):

Cronkite in his office minutes before his final broadcast.  SF Chronicle photo

Caption from the San Francisco Chronicle website: “In this March 6, 1981 file photo, Walter Cronkite talks on the phone at his office, prior to his final newscast as CBS anchorman in New York City. Behind him is a framed Mickey Mouse cartoon and his Emmy award. Famed CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite, known as the ‘most trusted man in America’ has died, Friday, July 17, 2009. He was 92.”

More:


Typewriter of the moment: July 23, 1829 William A. Burt’s typographer patented

July 23, 2011

William Austin Burt received a patent on a typographer on July 23, 1829 — signed personally by President Andrew Jackson.

First patent issued for a typewriter, July 23, 1829, to William Austin Burt -- signed by Andrew Jackson

Image of the first patent issued for a typewriter, July 23, 1829, to William Austin Burt, a Michigan surveyor and inventor. It was signed personally by President Andrew Jackson.

The typographer is considered the forerunner to the typewriter.

Burt’s chief reputation came from his work as a surveyor in Michigan.  He discovered the massive iron ore deposits for which Michigan became famous, the iron that fueled much of American industrialization in the 19th and 20th centuries.  He discovered one of the world’s largest deposits of copper, the Calumet and Hecla Mine.  He invented the solar compass, to survey areas where iron deposits made magnetic compasses inaccurate.

Drawing of W. A. Burt's typographer, the first patented typewriter - Wikimedia image

Patent drawing of W. A. Burt's typographer, the first patented typewriter - Wikimedia image

Some of Burt’s biographies do not mention his invention of the typewriter.

Burt was born in an era of great technological development and invention.  People in all walks of life invented devices to aid their work, or just for the joy of invention.  Even future president Abraham Lincoln invented a device to float cargo boats in shallow water, hoping to increase river commerce to his home county, Sangamon County, Illinois.

Burt invented devices to aid his work in surveying, a very important service industry in frontier America.   Because surveyors often worked on the frontier, they were famous for discovering natural resources in the course of their work. So it was that Burt, working in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, found his magnetic compasses spinning wildly.  Suspecting a natural phenomenon, Burt ordered his crew to look for ferrous rocks, and they quickly determined they were in an area rife with iron deposits.

It was to further surverying in such areas that Burt invented the solar compass.

Even uninteresting frontiersmen could lead lives that fascinate us today.  Was it Burt’s inventiveness that led him to such a life as a surveyor, or was it his work that pushed him to invent?

First typewritten letter, 1829 - Wikimedia Image

First letter ever written on a typewriter, in 1829 -- to Martin Van Buren, then Vice President of the U.S., and future president. Notice the letter was written nearly two months prior to the patent being issued on the device upon which it was written. Wikimedia image


Typewriter of the moment: Helen Keller (again)

February 21, 2011

Helen Keller at her typewriter, 1946 - Perkins School for the Blind

Helen Keller at her typewriter, circa 1946 – Perkins School for the Blind

Helen Keller at her typewriter, circa 1946

Helen Keller at her typewriter, circa 1946. Perkins School for the Blind caption: In 1902, Helen Keller became the first person who was deafblind to write a book. Her autobiography, The Story of My Life, was the first of 14 books she wrote in her lifetime.

Earlier at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:  “Typewriter of the Moment:  Helen Keller”


Typewriter of the moment: Jerry Lewis’s pantomime typewriter (with Leroy Anderson)

May 22, 2010

Ms. Fox’s class had a great time with this video — easy to see why, no?

From “Who’s Minding the Store,” a 1963 Paramount release.

I would have sworn I had a post on Leroy Anderson, but it’s not there to link to; you can check him out on PBS, though.  Another good topic to explore, an oversight to amend.

Jerry Lewis’s pantomime typewriter, always with the Leroy Anderson tune behind it, was one of his most famous comedic routines.  It was very popular in Europe, in both Germany and France.  It’s easy to translate.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Ms. Fox.


Typewriter of the moment: Helen Keller

March 14, 2010

Helen Keller at her typewriter, with Polly Thompson,  1933 - American Foundation for the Blind

Helen Keller at her typewriter, with Polly Thompson, 1933 - American Foundation for the Blind photo

Caption from the American Foundation for the Blind:  “This photograph, taken in their home, shows Helen and Polly in front of two large windows. The light is bright outside, and the curtains on the windows are pulled back. Helen is sitting at her typewriter, describing something with her hands to Polly, who is leaning towards her, smiling. Helen has on a dark dress with small light flowers and white trim on the neck and cuffs. Polly is wearing a long black dress, with a white pearl necklace.”

Moral of the photo:  “So don’t tell me you can’t do it.”  “So don’t tell me you don’t have time to write.”  “If Helen Keller could write books on a typewriter — she who could neither see nor hear — I don’t want any excuse from you that has the word ‘can’t’ in it.”

What moral, or other rant, would you propose?

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Typewriter of the moment: Alistair Cooke for the BBC

June 19, 2009

Alistair Cookes typewriter, displayed at BBC headquarters, Bush House, in London - Photo by Jeff Zycinski

Alistair Cooke's typewriter, displayed at BBC headquarters, Bush House, in London - Photo by Jeff Zycinski

Alas, our students now are too young to remember Alistair Cooke’s hosting of “Masterpiece Theater” on PBS, and of course, back then the BBC America service — if it existed — was available only to shortwave fanatics or people  who traveled a lot to the British Isles.

Perhaps more than anyone else other than Winston Churchill, and maybe the Beatles, Alistair Cooke tied England and America together tightly in the 20th century.  BBC’s other writers are good to brilliant, but even their obituary for Cooke (March 30, 2004) doesn’t quite do him justice:

For more than half a century, Alistair Cooke’s weekly broadcasts of Letter from America for BBC radio monitored the pulse of life in the United States and relayed its strengths and weaknesses to 50 countries.

His retirement from the show earlier this month after 58 years, due to ill health, brought a flood of tributes for his huge contributing to broadcasting.

Perhaps for Cooke, from Cooke’s broadcasts, we could develop a new variation of the Advanced Placement document-based question:  Broadcast-based questions. Heaven knows his Letter From America provided profound material on American history:

BBCs famous broadcaster Alistair Cooke, painted by June Mendoza (copyright Mendoza - www.junemendoza.co.uk)

BBC's famous broadcaster Alistair Cooke, painted by June Mendoza (copyright Mendoza - http://www.junemendoza.co.uk)


Typewriter of the moment: William Faulkner in California

December 19, 2008

I love this photo.

William Faulkner (1897-1962) reclines in a chair in front of typewriter in Hollywood, California, December 1942.  Alfred Eriss/Pix Inc./Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

William Faulkner (1897-1962) reclines in a chair in front of typewriter in Hollywood, California, December 1942. Alfred Eriss/Pix Inc./Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

Read more about Faulkner at The American Masters site at PBS.

Resources:


Typewriter of the moment: Douglas Adams

July 26, 2008

Here’s a typewriter you can buy. NV Books in Great Wolford, Warwickshire, offers a first edition copy of Douglas Adams’ masterpiece, The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, together with the autographed typewriter upon which he wrote it:

Douglas Adams's typewriter, a Hermes Standard 8, used to write the novel, The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Douglas Adams’s typewriter, a Hermes Standard 8, used to write the novel, The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

It’s yours, for just $25,112.92 (Today. Exchange rates may make the price wobble a bit). Abe Books in Denver lists the advertisement in the U.S.

THE HITCH HIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, First Edition in FINE Condition. Sold together with DOUGLAS ADAMS’ TYPEWRITER owned by Adams (whilst writing ‘Hitch Hikers’) and SIGNED IN THICK FELT PEN BY THE AUTHOR across the original casing

Description: First Edition Hardback. A mouthwatering copy of this modern classic, the dustwrapper retains all of the notoriously fugitive blue and is wholly unfaded. The front image and lettering are bright and sharp and the book overall is in exceptional condition. Sold together with A UNIQUE ARTEFACT owned by Douglas Adams in the late 1970s, his Hermes Standard 8 typewriter. This is a thrilling object to possess with a fascinating history. It is as certain as can be that Adams wrote his most famous work ‘The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy’ on this Hermes Standard 8. Aside from the supporting provenance, it still contains much evidence of his ownership and regular use. It bears an anti-apartheid sticker on one side of the object and is boldly signed across the front casing by Adams in his unmistakeable hand. It comes housed in its cardboard box which Adams used to transport it, namely packaging from Simon and Schuster, originally containing copies of Adams and Terry Jones’ collaboration ‘Starship Titanic’. An address label to Adams’ office at the Digital Village, London, remains stuck on the box too. The typewriter itself is in attractive condition to display, but is entirely unrestored and as precisely as it was when it was owned by Adams. It is frequently mentioned by all who knew him that writing was often a torment for him and as such his lateness was legendary. He once said ‘I love deadlines. I love the whoosing sound they make as they fly by’, and such was his difficulty in producing work on time that in a well-documented act of desperation his publishers once locked him in a hotel room until he typed enough pages to be let out! The keys of his typewriter all still bear the marks of Adams’ tortured labour. Significantly, the ‘x’ key is particularly discoloured. A unique piece of literary history then and a fabulous talking point, and simply the ultimate possession for a Douglas Adams fan. It is almost superfluous to mention that it is also a very secure investment for the future. A little bit about its subsequent history: Adams signed and donated the typewriter to a wildlife charity auction in 1998, and it was then kept in private hands for several years before being sold on. Adams was passionate about wildlife and in keeping with his memory (and his original intention for this item), a donation will be made to Rhino Recovery with this sale. ABOUT US: It is our philosophy at N V to provide the astute collector with high quality books for pleasure and investment, whilst offering a service that is always friendly and helpful. EVERY listing has a sharp digital image of the EXACT item(s) that you are perusing – with more photographs available on request. The accompanying description is meticulous and we guarantee that all items are authentic. Nevertheless, you are welcome to call us FREE on (0800) 083 0281 with any queries, or on +44 (1608) 674181 from overseas. In the meantime we wish you every success with your collecting. Bookseller Inventory # 000002

I can’t improve on Boing Boing’s commentary. Steampunk beat me to the story, too. (The typewriter was sold as a benefit for RHINO by Christie’s on November 30, 2005, for £2,400, about $4,100.)

Your students may not know who Douglas Adams was — Adams died prematurely in 2001, at 49, of a sudden and unexpected heart attack. He was working on the movie adaptation for Hitch Hiker’s Guide.

Douglas Adams, photo by Chris Ogle; DouglasAdams.com

Douglas Adams, photo by Chris Ogle; DouglasAdams.com

Hitch Hiker’s Guide started out as a BBC4 radio series, airing in 1978. The book version appeared shortly after that — I think I first read it in 1979, an interim year when I really lit up small corners of Utah. The book was immensely funny, very witty, and self-conscious in a way that most pure humor writing isn’t. Adams appeared to be familiar with science deeply. The jokes work on several levels. The book was popular with friends in public broadcasting who had heard the BBC4 series, and with scientists in laboratories.

One of the NPR stations in Washington, D.C., ran the series shortly after I moved there (WAMU? WETA? I forget which). Use of an Eagles instrumental for the theme caught my ear. Eagles? This series seemed blessed with the best wit, best writing, and best music.

Not so with special effects in the television series. The script was inspired, the narrative effects were fine, but special effects were of the cheesy, early-Dr. Who variety — which was okay, because it put the focus on the script and the story. And the story was the thing.

Through much of that time I was deeply involved in land management issues. We worked on wilderness, the old RARE II wilderness designation process, and segued into the Sagebrush Rebellion, where I found myself deep into rebel territory when the fighting broke out (think of Jackie Vernon’s story of being in Japan when World War II broke out; saying he didn’t really know what to do, he “became a kamikaze copilot”). Hitch Hiker’s Guide opens with Arthur Dent protesting the demolition of his house to make a path for a new thruway, with the authorities telling Dent that he had plenty of time to protest since the notice of demolition was posted in a town only a few miles away, and since he missed the protest period, he shouldn’t complain. He is “rescued” from this situation by a friend named Ford Prefect — like the little European Ford auto — who tells Arthur not to worry about the house; Ford turns out to be an alien, and he knows the Earth is about to be destroyed to make way for an inter-galactic thruway. The destruction crew notes with no irony to the Earthlings that the notice of destruction was posted on a nearby planet, and Earth simply missed the protest period. Ah. A good summary of many land management decisions.

We found comradeship with people who understood that, once a decision had been made, often the best thing to do was remember not to panic, pick up one’s towel and hitch a ride to the next venue. I would not have been much surprised to turn to the appendices of an official BLM report and see that BLM had determined the answer to be “42,” and that a study group had been appointed for further study.

42. 42 is the answer.

The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything is numeric in Douglas Adams‘ series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In the story, a “simple answer” to The Ultimate Question is requested from the computer Deep Thought, specially built for this purpose. It takes Deep Thought 7½ million years to compute and check the answer, which turns out to be 42. Unfortunately, The Ultimate Question itself is unknown, suggesting on an allegorical level that it is more important to ask the right questions than to seek definite answers.

Others have wondered about the number.

In the original series, Arthur Dent has a Scrabble™ game with him. At some point it mystically spells out, “What do you get if you multiply six by nine? Forty-two.”

6 times 9 is 42 — except in base-13. But as Adams himself said, he did not write jokes in base-13

I have not seen the movie.

Douglas Adams, perhaps pondering the meaning of life, and everything

Douglas Adams, perhaps pondering the meaning of life, and everything

“So long, and thanks for the fish.”

Big tip of the old scrub brush to Dr. Pamela Bumsted, who pointed this out to me.


Typewriter of the moment: Hunter Thompson

July 2, 2008

Yes, it’s Hunter Thompson.  Yes, it’s an IBM Selectric.  No, I don’t have any other information on this photograph.


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