Wednesday, April 30, 2003


Hmmm... no, I don’t think the computers of modern writers will reach iconic status, for the exact reason that Lisa states. The typewriter was, perhaps, the only tool that could really achieve that level of being a totem, a touchstone of the author’s genius — only because of its insane longevity. A computer is impersonal; by the time you get attached to it, it’s hopelessly outdated. And how many pens must Thomas Hardy have gone through? Five thousand geese must have sacrificed their tailfeathers to help Samuel Pepys keep his diaries; if one single quill could be tracked down, what would be its significance? Would that quill be responsible for some of the greater moments, or was it merely used to make out a marketing list?

Following the same path, is the tendency to iconify inanimate objects like this universal? It seems to be more prevalent in American culture, maybe the natural outgrowth of “George Washington Slept Here.”

Brian J. pointed out an interesting tendency of museum visitors a while back. Tourists at the Museum o’ American History always want to know if something on display is “the first”... e.g., “Is this the first car?” “Is this the first guitar?” (Both actual tourist questions, if I recall.) It seems that we want everything to be awe-inspiring; something merely old isn’t good enough; it must be the very first of its kind. There are probably a lot of people who would be much more impressed with having seen Faulkner’s typewriter than they would be interested in reading the work he produced on it.


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