Thursday, 12 May 2011

Eliot on Typewriters

In August 1916 T.S. Eliot was working as a book reviewer and wrote this in a letter to Conrad Aiken:

I have reviewed some good books and much trash. It is good practice in writing and teaches on speed both in reading and writing. It is bad in this way, that one acquires an extraordinary appetite for volumes, and exults at the mass of printed matter which one has devoured and evacuated. . . . Composing on the typewriter, I find that I am sloughing off all my long sentences which I used to dote upon. Short, staccato, like modern French prose. The typewriter makes for lucidity, but I am not sure that it encourages subtlety.

I'm always interested in how external, physical circumstance affects writing. Oddly, I think the reverse would be true of me. I type much faster that I can write and this leads to a voluptuous superfluity of words. Were I to take up my old fountain pen, I would probably become much more stern and efficient.

Eliot's words are more appropriate to the lapidary style of my text messages, of which I have already written here.

And here, because life needs a spoonful of poetry, is Eliot on the subject of a typist

The typist home at teatime, clears her breakfast, lights
Her stove, and lays out food in tins.
Out of the window perilously spread
Her drying combinations touched by the sun's last rays,
On the divan are piled (at night her bed)
Stockings, slippers, camisoles, and stays.

A peek behind the scenes at Inky Fool

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