A beautiful machine arrived at my house from Amsterdam. An Olivetti Lettera 22 portable (late 1950s). For months I felt it's too strange, too stupid to even mention--but I have been craving the feel of a manual typewriter. And now I have--one of the best. L Cohen and Tom Hanks agree. I can't say enough good things about the Etsy store I got it from. Go and check it out; tons of amazing things there.
Odd how many raw pages I can crank out in a day with this thing. Ten pages? Sure they're only rough drafts but-- hey that's a thing I can do now! Revise a rough draft, rather than just backspacing and re-doing everything on the go as in a word processor. And I guess there is something to that--no way to go back or backspace or ctrl-cvpx etc. You just get to write and write and when it's done...scan the pages and drop them into Google Drive. Duh. I'm no Luddite, nor a fool. OCRs are amazing things. Word processing software is to the typewriter what the U2 spy plane is to the Model T Ford. There's simply no question as to their absolute, totally superior sophistication. Unfortunately, I don't really need a U2 spy plane. I guess I could use it to go get groceries, but maybe the Model T would be better for that. Actually, even then I can just walk. Chicago has many nice places to buy food for cheap, and nothing is ever really that far away. With something like writing, the right tool for the right job means I have to listen to these freak cravings. I have the right tool for my brain for now, and it makes me so happy. Gosh, I just can't tell ya...shucks howdy. It's fun.
So what have I been typing on my Olivetti?
At first: Mostly notes from a book I found completely at random at the library. It's by Alice La Plante and it's one of those creative writing textbooks that sort of feel like an MFA in a jar. At first flush I rejected it as "baby stuff" and put it back on the shelf (nerve endings still raw from all those writing classes in college years ago) and then thought better of it. For there's nothing wrong with going back and doing the "baby stuff" again, is there? Last year's refresher course in grammar in my TEFL cert course was a huge boon. So I picked La Plante's book back off the shelf and surprised myself by checking it out, skipping around inside it, nabbing great quotes, prompts and exercises hither and yon. I wrote these out long hand, then typed them up. That was a rush. Remembering how to work a mechanical writing apparatus. Deep quick breath. Aw yeah baby. But anyway...I was just skipping around the library copy. Now, that's probably not the best way to go about this, said I. And so luckily was able to get my own copy at B&N. Next to it on the shelf was this little bundle of fun. So between those two books, I've been writing a lot of weird exercise and things, which have been shockingly fruitful.
That same trip yielded a most welcome and wonderful surprise as they had McGlue by Ottessa Moshfegh--whom I have met in real life! I can confirm that she is a tarot-reading alien, among other things. Her short fiction is awesome, so I'm looking forward to McGlue.
This is why we go to actual book stores and libraries, by the way. You can't google a word that hasn't occurred to you yet. But you can see something on a shelf and say--oh heeeeyyy!
I realize that I could probably do a whole post just on things I'm reading. But for now... The writing.
So there's those practice things (which make me feel young again like I'm just learning how useless first position c minor is and how augmented anything is spooky beautiful but doesn't go anywhere) and there's also this story which has been like an evil wisdom tooth in my brain for months now. It's called Never Tana and it is set totally in the real world without any jet packs or lazers or anything. Sounds dull, I know. But it isn't. It's about a plain jane from Indiana finding exotic New Age philosophy and damn near killing herself with it. But back in May, when Tana helpfully just appeared on my computer screen pretty much fully formed, I think I went a little overboard. I outlined. I plotted. I made freaking 3x5 cards. I set word counts for chapters. It was going to be the 200,000 word bildungsroman for our times! And then--nothing! Terrible. Now with the Olivetti here I can hear Tana's voice again...faintly. And I think I'm just going to let her tell her story and get out of the way. I'm also trying to get away from that word count ghost and just let the stories live, man. I think they will, and they do.
A couple of really pulpy science fiction tales have appropriately come up as well. I am staking a claim on the name Losimo Kazi, and I think we're going to see some of his awesome adventures soon. Also ran into a very Bradburian tale in my head about burying a large pet on an alien world. Sometimes I wonder if these things aren't like quarks or something--I can tell you about how long they'll be but not where they're going or what they're about; I can tell you what they're about but not an iota of how long they'll be. As for when they'll be done?
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Never Tana should be done by the end of September. The scifi stuff I just might serialize as a bi-monthly thing. Working title is just Past the End of Nowhere which is not great, I admit. Just keep your eyes peeled and follow me on Twitter for updates.
Update: Oh! And almost forgot. The Republic of Heaven --an occult investigation type thing that veers into psychodrama, theological fantasy, heist crime noir. It's bound to be as weird as Invisibles. Well, ok...maybe not that weird. But not for lack of trying, I assure you.
And thanks again, whoever you are, for reading the things I write.