Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Off with the Billy the Kid Gloves: What Becomes a Legend Most?

Karen L. Mulder, guest blogger

On April 29, 1878, in the Territory of New Mexico, a violent shoot out with the Jesse Evans Gang and the Seven Rivers Warriors occurred at the Fritz Ranch in Lincoln County, in the Territory of New Mexico. It was merely one of dozens of skirmishes with the law, involving a cast of hundreds, in what came to be known as the Lincoln County War—truly, the stuff of vituperative Hollywood westerns.
William Henry McCarty, aka William Bonney, aka Henry Antrim, aka Billy the Kid, had managed to intercept a bullet in the thigh earlier in the month, but seemed hale enough to take up his Winchester rifle again by July and to escape capture, fleeing from a burning house to create a diversion.
Of all the characters in the outlaw set, Billy the Kid projects the greatest mystical allure, although many facts of his short life elude accuracy. Was he born in New York City, on Allen Street? Did he really kill only four unfortunates, or was it more like twenty-one? Boxers, or briefs? By the last year of his life in 1881, at the tender age of 22, the most established fact about the lad is the moment of his death. This is probably because his first biographer pulled the trigger. Should one trust the biography of a sheriff who exterminates his main subject? This sounds like a trend that ought to be discouraged.
You can check it out yourself in a reprint of The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid, penned by Pat F. Garrett (1850-1908). Garrett’s prose rings with that kind of factual twang that one finds in Mark Twain, minus the witticisms and humor but definitely equal in the tall tale telling. On the other hand, if you want a less mythologizing, more contemporary and slightly more palatable read of the same events, with pictures thrown in, take a look at the 2010 version, To Hell on a Fast Horse: Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, and the Epic Chase to Justice in the Old Westsurefire proof that HarperCollins does not charge authors by the letter for their subtitles. The author, Mark Lee Gardner, is a Southwest Studies historian and non-apologetic Western aficionado from Colorado who provides  interpretative guides for the National Park Service out west. Like Garrett’s more prosaic account, Gardner covers the standard bases of Billy’s bad behavior. Unlike Garrett’s period purplish prose, Gardner draws us into the compelling drama of Billy’s life as it unfurls by inserting narrative quips that convey a reasonable sense of authenticity and humanity. Really, one can see how making cheese and doing the drut work on a number of ranches paled in comparison to gambling, stealing horses (or chasing Apaches who stole his horses), evading posses, and enjoying the lively companionship of other felonious types.
Billy, Doc Holliday, Jesse James, Charlie Bowdre in Las Vegas, 1879--where what happens there REALLY stays there...!
versus The Blow-Dried Gang from Young Guns, 1988, some of whom are still prone to shoot off their mouths
McCarty/Bonney/Antrim first appears in print in 1875, at the age of 15, for escaping prison through a chimney flue; this is also the year of his first recorded kill. The rangy 5’8”, blue-eyed, buck-toothed Kid successfully evaded capture or death by firearms enough times to gain a reputation for invincibility, and he was a deadeye shot as well. In 1878, Kid Antrim is ‘deputized’ and paid $4 a day by a righteously-minded gang called the Regulators, who set out to avenge the death of one of their cohorts. Around this time, there’s a bounty on Billy’s head for $500 ($12,000 today, although that’s probably more like $100,000 to 19th-century folk).
Eventually, it takes both the Army’s cavalry and infantry, wielding nothing less than rapid-fire Gatling guns and 16mm Howitzers, to put a stop to the gang’s revenge spree. The newly appointed governor of New Mexico, Lew Wallace, vows to get Billy in 1880, or to pardon him if he testifies in court against his buddies. Clearly, Wallace appreciates Billy’s popularity as a legend in the public eye. In response, Billy wages a correspondence campaign with Wallace, claiming that “I have no wish to fight anymore. Indeed, I have not raised an arm since your proclamation….Waiting for an annser I remain your obedeint servant [sic].”
Billy the Kid demonstrates the meaning of 'deadeye' aim.
This is the year that the moniker “Billy the Kid” first shows up in print, in the Las Vegas Gazette, and it is a year before his justifiable homicide thanks to Garrett. [Some say “The Kid” used by itself for six of Billy’s seven wild years was a derogatory synonym for ‘juvenile delinquent.’] Unfortunately, Billy’s wayward gun gets him into trouble again, and he ends up in a jailhouse in Las Vegas, as the toast of the town, but then returns to New Mexico for trial, where he is the only gang member from the Lincoln County War convicted and sentenced to death. After one more breathless escape, he meets his biographer and, well, as they say, the rest is history. As is Billy the Kid.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Rolling Over in the Dovers: Architecture, Cheap and Good!

Karen L. Mulder, guest blogger
 Back in the ‘80s I remember applying for a position that seemed promising as a graphic designer for Dover Publications. As I recollect, perhaps incorrectly, I dutifully trooped down some side street off Broadway to Dover’s New York city office, huffed up multiple floors of stairs, and ended up in this truly dusty and fusty office that seemed like a throwback to the late 1800s, with plank flooring the color of pitch from years of ground in dirt and tottering stacks of paper galleys that were the stuffing of actual books. Not a cubicle partition in sight.
Problematically, I hadn’t realized that Dover was not a publisher-from-scratch, but rather, a niche marketer for quick cheap copies of out-of-print though valuable old monographs. You know: the kinds of books that intelligent aliens seeking to understand human culture might find informative, like Serlio on Domestic Architecture, or Hugh Ferriss on The Power of Buildings.
"Palladio? Alberti? Mere punters! Ragazzi!"-- Serlio
Serlio's notion of a vacation villa in Vicenza...and this is not Vicenza, Kansas, Dorothy!
Hayward and Blanche Cirker started Dover in 1941, initially producing affordable re-issues of anything from classic literature to science theory to snazzy clip art collections of the cut-and-paste era, to coloring books based on, say, William Blake’s stained glass designs. They even convinced Albert Einstein to agree to a reissue The Principle of Relativity, which became a bestseller for Dover (despite Einstein’s protestations that his text was outdated). They created one of the earliest large-scale mail order book operations, as well as the prototype for what is now commonly called the trade paperback (economically sized for production as well as shipping costs).
Take Dover’s resurrection of Serlio, who contributed significant Renaissance-era treatises on architecture (and a fabulous typeface), but always seemed overshadowed by Alberti and Palladio. Those Renaissance treatises offered measurable plans and facades from Roman monuments, ultimately influencing the classical revivals that directly shaped Washington...or virtually every major post office or municipal library built between 1900 and the 1950s in America.
Jones' version of Celtic...um, How did he know already about Pepto-Bismol pink?
Dover Books on ornament did not skimp on color, even if blocky gold ink was required for, say, Historic Ornament and Design in Full Color: From Antiquity to the Renaissance, or Ornament and Design of the Alhambra. The Alhambra collator was the famous British design theorist, Owen Jones, known for his encyclopedic Grammar of Ornament (1868). Regardless of the fact that some of his 'historic' imitations were slightly fanciful or 'off,' Jones influenced design reformers like William Morris, whose Arts and Crafts patterns flattened nature’s designs and paved the way to modern painting, some would say. When these compendiums first came out in the mid-1800s they were the equivalent of MTV or the Internet. Sure, engraving had already operated for centuries as the sole transmitter of visual ideas other than the brains of craftsmen, but advances in color printing added a wholly new dimension to design, affecting thousands of ornament-encrusted Victorian confections.  The whole notion of ‘ornamenting’ or cladding a building’s exterior and interior by decorating its ‘skin’ in historical knockoffs fueled the pivotal argument between traditionalists (Victorians) and revolutionary early modernists, with their minimalist aesthetic.
If your tastes incline towards the sheer power of massive, plain-faced modernist volumes rather than decorated boxes, check out Dover’s version of Hugh Ferriss’ The Power of Buildings 1920-1950: A Master Draftsman’s Record.  During the peak of his career in the 30s and 40s, Ferriss crafted a firm reputation as a ‘delineator,’ providing passionate renderings. Today, these can be pumped out dispassionately by computer programs like AutoCAD or Revit. There is sexiness and mystery in his foggy, chiaroscuro versions of New York’s terracotta tiled Woolworth Building, or the setback art deco masterpiece, the Daily News Building, or Rockefeller Center and the United Nations in their fetal stages. His thickly textured lines practically threaten to flake graphite or charcoal off the printed page and onto your lap. The originals are archived at Columbia University, and an annual prize in his name singles out individuals for excellence in rendering. Although trained as an architect, Ferriss made images of buildings that ‘sold’ modernism to the client and the public, in magazines like Harper’s or Vanity Fair, before commentators and critics made the structures iconic.  Cultural maven Dan Okrent once noted that Ferriss’ futuristic renderings of skyscrapers and grandiose projects in development, like the 1939 World’s Fair Trilon and Perisphere, influenced a generation of modernist more than any single architect, despite the fact that Ferriss never designed a single building of note.  Essentially, Ferriss’ drawings put the Gotham in Gotham City, Batman’s hometown.
From the Metropolis of Tomorrow by Hugh Ferriss
They inspired the cities that animate Lucas’ Star Wars franchise. Disney's Epcot Center owes a lot to Ferriss' version of the Metropolis of Tomorrow. Ferriss’ introduction not only scampers through three decades of relevant architectural progress, but reads like a literary time capsule that captures his fascination with what was to become modern, or cutting edge. Ironically, his quaint, stiff rhetoric shows just how hard his generation was searching for the proper language to describe the new architecture.
Thanks for these and other rambles through Western civ, Dover! You may not be the Library of Congress, but you're certainly helping us hold onto some of our cultural heritage.

Karen L. Mulder passed on Dover’s need for quick and dirty graphics, taking a job on Madison Avenue designing the first generation of 'singing' cards.  But those $5 to $15 Dover Books on art and architecture eventually became invaluable staples in her graduate education right through the doctorate in architectural history, in fact.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Celebrating the Lavish Economy of Thinginess

by Karen L. Mulder, guest blogger
Entrance to the delectations of the Smithsonian Castle off the Mall
If you happen to live around the DC area, get yourself over to the Smithsonian museums right away! On April 16, a news story reported that Washington’s formidable museum network would have to limp along with $41 million in budget cuts. This means that after May 1, certain galleries may close, and the 2014/2015 exhibits schedule will likely be curtailed. News outlets underscore how reducing the salaries of security personnel—the folks who protect each facility and its contents—is the first recourse for trimming the budget. This means that each of the 767 U.S. Park police officers who patrol the actual buildings will be forced to rotate through furloughs without pay. A-hem...we have yet to hear about reduced salaries or schedules for building managers and admin types, who can pull in $87,000 to $112,000 per year. On top of this, the National Park Service people who patrol the Mall sites are working for an institution that will have to manage with $153 million in budget cuts over the next fiscal year, affecting 400 destinations, including the Shenandoah National Park and hundreds of sites on the National Historic Register. Again, evidence of reductions will be seen in fewer openings and more frequent closings, interrupted maintenance programs, and the sad fortunes of staff members who already work for relatively modest salaries. Meanwhile, the poor ol’ Washington Monument will remain swathed in scaffolding, after its 2011 earthquake shake up, and closed until at least July 2013. Well, at least that curtails the need for security staff.
Buffalo exhibited at the Castle in the 1800s
If you’ve ever visited one of the Smithsonian museums, you know how impossible it is to avoid the buzz of thousands of strung-out schoolchildren and wide-eyed tourists circulating through the collections. What is it about a trip to D.C. that entices thousands of teachers and chaperones to spend a day herding cats and sugar lows? For one thing, interactive learning is regaining credence as the modus operandi of education’s future. After all, a ten-year-old with a smart phone has access within half a second to more historical facts than the most learned medieval and Renaissance scholars could hope to glean in a lifetime of erudition. Enticing our children to appreciate the value of historical knowledge, when it is so easily gained, is quite the challenge. For another, living in a virtual society that throws away so much for the sake of fashion can make the solid ‘thinginess’ of things distinctive. This 'thinginess' is why, for example, the curators at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum have worried for decades about the waning odor of their boxcar and discarded shoe collection from Majdanek concentration camp prisoners, which provide one of the most direct visceral hits in the entire USHMM experience.
At least the fiscal hits won’t put much of dent in the Smithsonian’s excellent storage facilities and satellite warehouses—the spaces where, for example, all the mementos left at places like the Vietnam Memorial are stored in perpetuity.
The Smithsonian's garage,  from the air...
Hats left at the Vietnam Memorial, in storage

A friend of mine doing a research project on some lost ‘streaky red’ glass samples from the 1930s reported that when he visited the Smithsonian Museum Support Center, an award-winning architectural complex on 4 1/2-acres in Suitland, Maryland, he felt a little like Maxwell Smart disappearing (or not!) down a phone booth rabbit hole. His guide ushered him through a series of hi-tech security access points that passed through various ‘pods’ containing entire petrified tree trunks, ancient monumental Buddha statues, endless trays of fleas or mosquitoes or exotic animals suspended in formaldehyde, hunting trophies from Theodore Roosevelt’s safaris, geological samples from space expeditions, and weird presidential gifts—in short, all amounting to about 30 million items. This overwhelming deposit of things stabilized in climate-controlled comfort apparently constitutes only one-fourth of the Smithsonian’s collection. Up the way in Landover, the National Park Service manages 2.5 million artifacts that it preserves and occasionally places in the contexts of its historical sites, like Grant’s home. Recently, everything that could be saved from the flooded basements of Ellis Island after Hurricane Sandy joined that batch of stuff.
The things in our national repositories, however, reflect a teensy fragment of the knowledge complex that historians and curators doggedly attempt to preserve for future generations (regardless of the tepid interest that future generations testily exhibit, and I say this as a historian and a professor). Will the objects simply fester in warehouses, disintegrating, or will at least a fraction of them be brought to light, over time, to illuminate how knowledge or expertise has been gained in art, science, nature, politics, and so on?
Fortunately, a fascinating ‘knowledge’ trend has established itself in history and science writing in recent years, aptly represented by research extravaganzas like Simon Winchester’s The Map That Changed the World, and Krakatoa: The Day The World Exploded. Discovery and exploration are now set in a larger context of human experience, more like a narrative, under a relatively new rubric known as social history. Social history takes the entire context surrounding a thing, or things, into account. Smithsonian curators are hip to this.
As an example, think about the difference between Jefferson’s parlor of disconnected artifacts (many collected by Lewis and Clark) at Monticello, and anniversary documentaries in the past decade that attempt to reconstruct the daily experiences of the Lewis and Clark expedition from Clark’s rather stiff journal entries.

In fact, the Smithsonian's publishing enterprise basically exists to reveal its riches to the public. Volumes like Contemporary Folk Art (Patterson), Arte Latino (Yorba), Young America (Pastan), The Land Through A Lens (Grundberg), Modern Masters (Mecklenberg and Farrell), Masters of Their Craft (Trapp), and Graphic Masters (Moser) each isolate the discrete ‘stories’ of various objects within a massive collection, selecting images and pithy curatorial factoids that illustrate why the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. Each subtitle features the qualifiers ‘highlights’ or ‘treasures,’ which exposes the Smithsonian’s self-promoting formula, dedicated to the valuable task of getting the public into the museum spaces. No mere physical interaction with all Smithsonian’s holdings could inform you as richly as these carefully constructed publications. Taking a look at one before an expedition to DC seems like an invaluable antidote to prevent information overload.
Hey, and don’t laugh about information overload: an accomplished curator friend told me there is actually a recognized disability, something that sounds like ‘Stendahl’s Syndrome,’ that gives the museum-goer migraine-quality headaches and shaky knees. He was diagnosed with the malady, and given a remedy that involved stopping for an espresso and a snack at two-hour intervals so he could unhitch his mind for a few minutes. No kidding!
Anyway, don't be stingy with the Smithsonian, they need your visits, and you need to celebrate the lavish economy of thinginess!
Architectural and art historian Karen L. Mulder has never forgotten the experience of walking across Harvard Yard in 1981 with a weighty 16th-century volume of pressed botanical samples from the Fogg Museum, and no armored guards. She was photographing some of the pages for a publication about Harvard’s collections, and remains deeply attracted to this very day by stories of things.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Forever Ella!

Today, as the Google doodle attests, is Ella Fitzgerald's birthday. Ella is my favorite jazz singer, and probably the world's. She was JOY! 
With a phenomenal range, beautiful timbre, and an improvisational genius drawn from and honed by the horns, Ella was an ebullient performer who loved to share her delight in singing with her audiences. You can hear and see her duet with Sinatra in A Man and His Music: The Collection and with Nat Cole in Stardust Memories. Below are an uptempo tune and a ballad. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Edith Hamilton and the enduring spell of 'Mythology'

Here's what DG reader Gioconda wrote yesterday in response to the topic of essential books in one's life:
I can't say enough for Edith Hamilton's Mythology, which was all but glued to my nine-year-old hands. It was easy to enjoy the stories and overlook the scholarship she brought to the task of relating Greek and Roman mythology in a way that preserved its beauty while giving it continuity, by adding the substance of 'Trojan Women' to the Iliad, for example. Her presentation heightened the tragedy and added poetry that made it unforgettable.
And here's what Sigrud Nunez says, in her chapter of Bound to Last: 30 Writers on Their Most Cherished Book:
How old was I when I first read Mythology? I think around eleven or twelve. It was a natural step from the fairy tales that had been some of my favorite reading before. The book could just as well have been called Everything You Wanted to Know. How the world came into being; who rules heaven, earth, and hell; the origins of seasons, stars, waters, winds; why night follows day; where dreams come from; what makes a person fall in love; where we go when we die—they had it all figured out, the Greeks. And every explanation was rational in the Greek way, and beautiful in the Greek way.
Talk about synchronicity! Nunez's essay was one of a handful of diverse choices from the book that I had wanted to highlight this week. Like many of the books discussed, the physical item had become a talisman:
Mythology has never been out of print. I could easily have gotten myself a new copy anytime. Instead, when it began to crumble and flake ... I kept it in a plastic baggie. This did not look very attractive. But then it was not just a book: it was a memento of childhood, a holy thing.
As Nunez points out, Hamilton quotes frequently from the ancient writers who were her sources (Hesiod, Pindar, Virgil, judicious doses of Ovid, and the dramatists Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides). An educator at Bryn Mawr for 26 years, she published her first book (The Greek Way) at age 63. Like its companion, The Roman Way, it is entirely absorbing. But it was Mythology that was destined to become the "classic of classics," rivaled only by Bulfinch's Mythology

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Two novelists reveal their most cherished book

I am currently immersed in Bound to Last: 30 Writers on Their Most Cherished Book. Talk about kindred spirits! Few things can be more fascinating to avid readers than to learn what tomes their favorite writers treasure. One such person for me is Francine Prose, whose fiction and essays are always so finely tuned and intelligent. Prose takes us on a magical journey through the 1945 Grosset & Dunlap edition of Andersen’s Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen, illustrated by Arthur Szyk (left: The King and Queen of Roses). After 50 years she had a sudden desire to put her hands on her childhood copy of the book and it seemed to have disappeared in a move:
"I missed the book more than a keepsake. I grieved for it as if for a person.... After so many years, I remembered the images with startling clarity, and I knew that my longing for the book had as much to do with the illustrations as with Andersen's text. I wanted the Proustian moment of experiencing once again the effect that had been produced on my by the alchemical combination of the strangeness of the stories and the bright, exotic pictures. I wanted to touch the object I had so often touched as a child....  
Szyk's images evoke medieval manuscript illuminations and the miniature paintings of India and Persia. In the illustration for 'The Marsh King's Daughter,' the part Egyptian, part Art Nouveau Princess sways her shapely arms in the hula-dancer tribute of an altarpiece angel; in the background are two large storks, with three more in the air, all of which could have been plucked from a row of hieroglyphics on a Pharoah's tomb.... The insects and forest creatures menacing 'The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf' seem like visitors from one of Bosch's nightmares....
The way words and pictures reveal themselves as we page through a book cannot be approximated by the touch of an e-Reader button, or by gazing at them, all at once, however handsomely framed, on the wall. That is why, in a few years when she's a little older, I plan to give my granddaughter my copy of the 1945 Grosset and Dunlap edition of Andersen's Fairy Tales. I cannot quite imagine feeling the same way about passing my first e-book down to a new generation."
Susan Straight, whose most recent novel is Take One Candle Light a Room, has read Toni Morrison's Sula every year since the age of 14. I experienced it for the first time last year, and both the story and the prose shook up my molecules in a way few books ever have. Pow! It is a sucker punch of a novel that had me down for the count. It was the same for Straight.
"This slim novel ... became a dark and luminous icon for me," she writes. "It was like a premonition. It made me into a writer, it colored how I became a mother, and images and words from it unfurl themselves in my mind—like dye dropped in water—nearly every day.... Morrison's words from the first instant made me see differently. Made the world controllable with metaphor and simile, made everything a possibility of description inside my own head even while things around me were unutterably dangerous or sad." 
Are there are books you prize above all others? That you treasure for personal reasons or that you go back to, time after time? Tomorrow I'll share more great titles and stories from Bound to Last.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Literary quiz redux; Earth Day 2013

 I know some of you are jonesin' for another crack at a quiz from the NYPL "Plot Thickens" knowledge cards, so here's Round 2 to get your brain in gear for the week ahead. Answers after the jump. And in honor of Earth Day, you might want to pick up a deck of The Earth-Friendly Garden Knowledge Cards: A Quiz Deck on Green Gardening Essentials. (Images from today's google doodle, which shows the cycle of seasons through the rising and falling sun and moon. You can play and pause the moon and sun on four different images.)
  1. This famous short story centers on Gabriel Conroy, a college teacher who spends an evening with his wife, Gretta, at his music-loving aunts' Christmas party, and later reflects movingly on mortality.
  2. In Depression-era California, a drifter and the wife of a roadside cafe owner plot to murder her husband. This tautly constructed crime novel was banned in Boston because of the very steamy sex scenes.
  3. The setting of this play is a Second Empire drawing room in which three characters—Garcin (a political coward who abused his wife), Inez (a lesbian who was killed by her lover), and Estelle (who murdered her illegitimate child)—are condemned to coexist in mutual recrimination and unrequited lust.
  4. In this novel, which focuses on six generations of the remarkable Buendia family, the mythical town of Macondo and its citizens serve as a microcosm not only of Latin America, but also of all humanity.
  5. In this erudite mystery, which is set in a medieval Benedictine monastery, the monk William of Baskerville investigates a series of murders.
  6. In this long and complex play, the regulars at Harry Hope's saloon, a seedy waterfront bar in Manhattan, find solace in fantasies about attaining better lives until Hickey, a traveling salesman, arrives and begins puncturing their dreams.
  7. The hypocrisies of fashionable Victorian society are shrewdly skewered in this dazzlingly witty drawing room comedy, in which an English parliamentarian must extricate himself from a blackmail scheme and then justify his past misdeeds to his unsuspecting wife.
  8. In this novel clearly inspired by the author's own turbulent marriage, Anthony Patch and his wife, Gloria, heedlessly and self-destructively fritter away their nights and days in alcohol-fueled revelry and debauchery as they wait for Anthony's inheritance upon the death of his wealthy grandfather.
  9. In this novel, the aging Gustav von Aschenbach, a highly esteemed German writer on holiday in Venice, whose life has been one of strict discipline and sober self-restraint, yields to an unbridled passion for the "perfect beauty" of Tadzio, a 14-year-old Polish boy.
  10. In this short story, a once-celebrated Parisian chef works as a cook for two pious Norwegian sisters who know nothing of her illustrious past. Upon winning the lottery, she uses her winnings to prepare a sumptuous feast for the sisters and the devout followers of their late father, an ascetic pastor.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Paean to the typewriter & models used by famous writers

I owned the exact model, pictured at right, for the longest time, finally giving it away in a much-regretted fit of clearing out clutter. I found it in a junk shop and had fantasies of getting it in working order, something that Paul Schweitzer of Gramercy Typewriter certainly could have helped me with (click the link to see a short video of this amazing artisan).
The Land of Oz's L. Frank Baum used a Smith Premier. Both Truman Capote and Maria Callas favored a Royal HH (La Callas looks like she could give Mad Men's Joan a run for her money in the va va voom department). Agatha Christie wrote her tales of Roger Ackroyd et al. on a Remington Portable Victor.
Is Bette Davis typing her memoirs on this Remington Noiseless Portable (or telling Warner Bros where to get off)? At left, Bob Dylan contemplates the jingle jangle morning with his Royal Caravan (and in the scene from Don't Look Back below, he types on an Olympia while Joan Baez serenades him).
Doyenne of food writers M.F.K. Fisher used an Underwood in her younger years and a Smith-Corona Galaxie series portable later in life. Other famous typewriters include the 1940s Royal Quiet DeLuxe Edward R. Murrow used to report on World War II and John Steinbeck's hefty IBM Model C (btw, check out our centennial editions of The Pearl and Of Mice and Men). Steinbeck also owned one of the first lightweight portables, a Hermes Baby.

Richard Wright favored a 1940s Royal Arrow while Orson Welles pecked on a 20s woodgrain Underwood portable.

What a wonderful shot this is of Ralph Ellison with his Olivetti Studio 44!
Daphne du Maurier at her Underwood. "Don't Look Back"?
Writers who still use typewriters include Kazuo Ishigiro, Oliver Sacks, P.J. O'Rourke, David Sedaris, and John Le Carre (actually, his wife types his longhand drafts). John Updike used an Olivetti MP1 portable all his life. (It was made in 1932, the same year he was born.) Olivettis are supposedly the Jaguar of portables. Have you ever owed a typewriter? I had a trusty Smith Corona electric that got me through all of my college papers.
Antique typewriters have become collectors' items because they're no longer manufactured and because many of them are exceptionally beautiful artifacts. (They are also in demand with set designers for period dramas.) For their film The Typewriter, Christopher Lockett and Gary Nicholson traveled through America chatting up typewriter experts and aficionados. Here's the trailer:


And here's a gallery of vintage models accompanied by Leroy Anderson's beguiling "The Typewriter"