It is something of a miracle the once plain pieces of paper that came out of this typewriter. Each letter, each word just one more ordinary piece of the English language, but when combined by the hand of their creator, a new way of writing emerged.
The south, in all of its misbegotten glory, its pain, love and sorrow carefully pecked out from the imagination of an author who dove deeper into our understanding of ourselves than anyone but Twain.
Benji from The Sound and the Fury spoke in hulicinatory bursts of color, shape and light through the soft hammered letters of this machine and fifteen narrators tell the story of Addie Bundren’s death in As I Lay Dying, the words from each narrator passing from Faulkner’s imagination through his fingers and onto inked ribbon forced against paper, one letter at a time.
So this typewriter, an early innovation of communication, now relegated to a curiosity on bookshelves, is an icon of what it means to be southern. Those keys taught us another way of seeing ourselves. It was not always nice, but we learned the transformative virtue of pain.
Photo: Faulkner’s typewriter at Rowan Oak,
his home in Oxford, Mississippi.