Authors and writers who had notable relationships with typewriters.
- Early adopters Henry James dictated to a typist.
- Mark Twain claimed in his autobiography that he was the first important writer to present a publisher with a typewritten manuscript, for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). Research showed that Twain’s memory was faulty and that the first book submitted in typed form was Life on the Mississippi (1883, also by Twain).
- Others, William Faulkner’s Underwood Universal Portable sits in his office at Rowan Oak, which is now maintained by the University of Mississippi in Oxford as a museum. William S. Burroughs wrote in some of his novels—and possibly believed—that “a machine he called the ‘Soft Typewriter’ was writing our lives, and our books, into existence,” according to a book review in The New Yorker. And, in the film adaptation of his novel Naked Lunch, his typewriter is a living, insect-like entity (voiced by North American actor Peter Boretski) and actually dictates the book to him.
- Writer Zack Helm and director Mark Forster explored the potential mechanics of the “Soft Typewriter” philosophy in the movie Stranger than Fiction, in which the very act of typing up her handwritten notes gives a fiction writer the power to kill or otherwise manipulate her main character in real life.
- Ernest Hemingway used to write his books standing up in front of a Royal typewriter suitably placed on a tall bookshelf. This typewriter, still on its bookshelf, is kept in Finca Vigia, Hemingway’s Havana house (now a museum) where he lived until 1960, the year before his death.
J. R. R. Tolkien was likewise accustomed to typing from awkward positions: “balancing his typewriter on his attic bed, because there was no room on his desk”. In his Foreword to The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien stated that “the whole story … had to be typed, and re-typed: by me; the cost of professional typing by the ten-fingered was beyond my means.”
- Jack Kerouac, a fast typist at 100 words per minute, typed On the Road on a roll of paper so he would not be interrupted by having to change the paper. Within two weeks of starting to write On the Road, Kerouac had one single-spaced paragraph, 120 feet long. Some scholars say the scroll was shelf paper; others contend it was a Thermo-fax roll; another theory is that the roll consisted of sheets of architect’s paper taped together. His rapid work earned the famous rebuke from Truman Capote, “That’s not writing, it’s typing.”
- Another fast typist of the Beat Generation was Richard Brautigan, who said that he thought out the plots of his books in detail beforehand, then typed them out at speeds approaching 90 to 100 words a minute.
- Tom Robbins waxed philosophical about the Remington SL3, a typewriter that he bought to write Still Life with Woodpecker. He eventually did away with it because it is too complicated and inhuman for the writing of poetry.
- After completing the novel Beautiful Losers, Leonard Cohen is said to have flung his typewriter into the Aegean Sea. Don Marquis purposely used the limitations of a typewriter (or more precisely, a particular typist) in his archy and mehitabel series of newspaper columns, which were later compiled into a series of books. According to his literary conceit, a cockroach named “Archy” was a reincarnated free-verse poet, who would type articles overnight by jumping onto the keys of a manual typewriter. The writings were typed completely in lower case, because of the cockroach’s inability to generate the heavy force needed to operate the shift key. The lone exception is the poem “CAPITALS AT LAST” from archys life of mehitabel, written in 1933.
- Late users Andy Rooney and William F. Buckley Jr. (1982) were among many writers who were very reluctant to switch from typewriters to computers.
- David McCullough bought himself a second-hand Royal typewriter in 1965 and it has been the sole piece of technology in producing the manuscripts of every book this two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning, New York Times bestselling author has published.
- Hunter S. Thompson kept a typewriter in his kitchen and is believed to have written his “Hey, Rube!” column for ESPN.com on a typewriter. He used a typewriter until his suicide in 2005.
- Harlan Ellison has used typewriters for his entire career, and when he was no longer able to have them repaired, learned to do it himself; he has repeatedly stated his belief that computers are bad for writing, maintaining, “Art is not supposed to be easier!”
- Author Cormac McCarthy continues to write his novels on an Olivetti Lettera 32 typewriter to the present day. In 2009, the Lettera he obtained from a pawn shop in 1963, on which nearly all his novels and screenplays have been written, was auctioned for charity at Christie’s for $254,500 USD; McCarthy obtained an identical replacement for $20 to continue writing on.
- Will Self explains why he uses a manual typewriter: “I think the computer user does their thinking on the screen, and the non-computer user is compelled, because he or she has to retype a whole text, to do a lot more thinking in the head.”