The Iron Whim: A Fragmented History of Typewriting

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Cornell University Press, 2005 - Literary Criticism - 331 pages
2 Reviews
The Iron Whim is an intelligent, irreverent, and humorous history of writing culture and technology. It covers the early history and evolution of the typewriter as well as the various attempts over the years to change the keyboard configuration, but it is primarily about the role played by this marvel in the writer's life. Darren Wershler-Henry populates his book with figures as disparate as Bram Stoker, Mark Twain, Franz Kafka, Norman Mailer, Alger Hiss, William Burroughs, J. G. Ballard, Jack Kerouac, Hunter S. Thompson, Northrop Frye, David Cronenberg, and David Letterman; the soundtrack ranges from the industrial clatter of a newsroom full of Underwoods to the more muted tapping and hum of the Selectric. Wershler-Henry casts a bemused eye on the odd history of early writing machines, important and unusual typewritten texts, the creation of On the Road, and the exploits of a typewriting cockroach named Archy, numerous monkeys, poets, and even a couple of vampires. He gathers into his narrative typewriter-related rumors and anecdotes (Henry James became so accustomed to dictating his novels to a typist that he required the sound of a randomly operated typewriter even to begin to compose). And by broadening his focus to look at typewriting as a social system as well as the typewriter as a technological form, he examines the fascinating way that the tool has actually shaped the creative process.With engaging subject matter that ranges over two hundred years of literature and culture in English, The Iron Whim builds on recent interest in books about familiar objects and taps into our nostalgia for a method of communication and composition that has all but vanished.
 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Meggo - LibraryThing

An interesting, if sometimes uncomfortable, look at the history of typewriting. That's typewriting, not typewriters, although a cursory history of the machine is included of necessity. The book ... Read full review

The iron whim: a fragmented history of typewriting

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

The title and subtitle of this distinctive and well-written book are unduly correct. Unfortunately, it takes a scattershot, whimsical approach to typewriting's impact on culture. References from ... Read full review

Contents

Ghosts and Machines i
1
Part 2
26
Part 4
46
Part 3
68
Typewriting as Discipline
133
Pen Slavery
134
Therbligs
144
QWERTY
152
Bourgeois PaperBangers
218
Part 8
221
Rail Road Test
222
Ten Fingers Talk
231
On the Royal Road
238
Typewriters at War
245
Electrification and the End of the Grid
253
The Typewriter in the Garden
257

Dvorak or In the Navy
158
The Poets Stave and Bar
166
Typewriting Identity and Truth
177
The Monkeys
186
Barnyard Politics
200
Not an Especially Bright Dog
205
under difficulties semi colon
211
Part 6
259
Acknowledgements
291
Permissions
292
Notes
293
24
327
Copyright

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