Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Notes from a Public Typewriter by Michael Gustafson & Oliver Uberti

This delightful little book found its way to me through a book group friend. She graciously let me borrow it, and I read it in today's early morning hours. It's a quick read, but you will want to linger.

Michael Gustafson and his wife Hilary own the Literati bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In a town that loves bookstores, and especially independent bookstores, the Literati bookstore has a particular hook: an old fashioned typewriter that sits in the store, ready with paper, for anyone to sit down and type whatever comes to mind. Michael collects the papers, and after many pushes and prods from friends, he decided to share some of those simple, profound, sad, graceful, and uplifting messages.  

One man used the typewriter to type "Will you marry me?" to his girlfriend; another began a pen-pal relationship with a man who dresses up as a werewolf and plays the violin around town. Some message speak of heartbreak and loneliness; others whimsical and fun. There's something very satisfying about typing on an old manual typewriter. The strike of the keys resonates in the deepest part of yourself, and the effort it takes to type puts your whole body and mind into what you're trying to say. 

I learned to type in high school, in a typing class in the early 1980's.  We had electric typewriters, which were a huge improvement over manual typewriters, but they were still a bugaboo. I was impressed with myself that I could actually type fast. That one little typing class has provided a foundation for typing that has seen me through many years of work and college degrees. Oh, I remember having a meltdown when my typewriter ran out of ink and I was halfway through a paper, unable to finish--and it was due the next afternoon. I look back at those papers, and I see the correcting fluid, the messed up margins; nothing compares to the effort it took to use a typewriter! I did get my paper finished in time, by the way. 

I loved this little reminder of a past that wasn't so long ago. Michael's connection to typewriters, and one in particular, strengthens his connection to his grandfather, and he keeps his grandfather's typewriter on display at the Literati. People bring old typewriters to him and he displays them in the window of the bookstore. Ah, books and typewriters. 

This would make a sweet little gift for aspiring writers, bookaholics, or anyone who loves how whimsy can sometimes  bring out our deepest feelings. 

Rating:  5/6 for a delightful little find on a lovely bookstore, the people who call it home, and the people who find a sense of themselves sitting at the typewriter. 

Available in hardcover. 

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