Apple is all about sleek design and minimalist beauty, but if a writer were to pose with his MacAir or iPad for a photo portrait, he’d be hard-pressed to look like he’s dripping with writerly intrigue. Besides, no one looks good in the eerie blue of computer screen light.
But the typewriter, like the book (as Andre Kertesz knew), is a terrific prop in photography. It’s a gorgeously intricate, serious machine—masculine but with enough fine parts to look delicate, like a bicycle or watch with one of those little gear windows. It’s there to do one, just one, good thing: put ink on a single sheet of paper. No Internet, no distraction, no apps, no games, no nonsense; just words—and just one font. Delicious simplicity.
You can take a peek of several famous writers—and an actor or two, like Marlon Brando (with a white cat draped about his shoulders)—over at LIFE. The best are of Faulkner in itchy socks, high-waisted short shorts, sunglasses, and no shirt.
While the typewriter isn’t commonplace today, there is a group of typewriter enthusiasts who blog lovingly about their machines in the "Typosphere." One fellow, Reverend Munk, tries out various specimens and posts the typed pages on his entertaining blog, To Type, Shoot Strait, and Speak the Truth. He knows a great deal about these machines, which he keeps in a “Typin’ Corral” at home.
After looking at these machines for a little while—even just in pictures here and there online—you start to think it might be swell to get a typewriter instead of an iPad II. It would certainly aid in pretending to be like Hildy Johnson in My Girl Friday. But then I read that this is exactly what all the cool kids are doing: According to the Times, we’re in a Typewriter Renaissance in which those cool hipster kids, when they aren't participating in the Knitting Renaissance, get together and have “type-ins” like union "sit-ins" and hippie' "be-ins" and intone, “Unplug and reconnect.”