A recent article in the New York Times informs readers that Cormac McCarthy’s typewriter is about to be auctioned off. It’s expected to go for between $15,000 and $20,000. That’s a lot of money for a typewriter that has, according to McCarthy, “never been serviced or cleaned other than blowing out the dust with a service station hose” in the 50 years he’s been typing on it.
But clearly there’s something pretty appealing about the idea of owning the typewriter this Pulitzer Prize winning author has written all the drafts of all his books on. Does whoever is going to pay the big bucks for it think the machine itself produced All the Pretty Horses and No Country for Old Men? And if only they can put their hands on it, great literature will clack onto the pages for them, too?
Not consciously, of course. But what established writer has not been asked by newcomers to the field: Do you write in the morning or at night? Do you write an outline first or just start? Do you know the ending before you begin? And the most common question of all: Do you write longhand or on a computer? As if there’s some great secret to writing and if they ask enough “real” writers, they’ll find out what it is. (No one wants to hear you have to sit down day after day and do it till it’s done.)
That said, if the purchaser of Cormac McCarthy’s typewriter wins a Pulitzer Prize (or a Governor General’s Award) any time soon, I may just have to trade in my Dell laptop for manual Olivetti.