I had the privilege of meeting Richard Polt several years ago at a type-in I helped organize (along with my friend, Brian Brumfield). Richard is well-known in the typosphere and has recently written a book that will be of interest to all typewriter enthusiasts, titled The Typewriter Revolution: A Typist's Companion for the 21st Century. He graciously agreed to be interviewed about his new book and I am happy to share it with you.
Why did you write the book?
I was surprised and excited to see people in the 21st century adopting typewriters, not as collectibles but as creative tools. There are lots of dimensions to this development—art, psychology, politics, education… but I wanted to see if I could find a common thread. I think I did. All of today’s typists are working out a new, healthier relationship to technology: by being willing to play and create with older tech, they’re also relating more sanely and happily to newer tech. If my book can give momentum to this movement, I think it will do some good in the world.
Can you share some stories about people you met while researching the book?
The book was a great excuse to meet some very interesting people. When Alaskan singer-songwriter Marian Call came through Cincinnati, I got to be part of a small group that heard her sing to the clicking accompaniment of her Underwood. Afterwards, she told me about her typewriter feelings and memories while I took notes on my little Groma Kolibri. It was also a thrill to join with a local cultural group, Chase Public, to type poems for people at the MidPoint Music Festival. One young woman was new to Cincinnati and described her experiences in the city; then I tried putting them into poetic form, and she was delighted. So often, typewriters break the ice and give people an occasion to try new experiences and form new relationships.
Did you write the book by pen or typewriter or computer?
All of them—but mostly a computer. The book involved a lot of online research and communication, and it has a complex structure. A computer is very helpful for all that. But in order to avoid total hypocrisy—and because I love doing so—I brainstormed many of the key philosophical sections on a typewriter and edited them with a pen before finalizing the digital text. For me, typewriters are especially great for focusing on an idea and seeing where it will take me.
Any plans for a future book?
I'd like to revise the novella I typed for National Novel Writing Month a few years ago and try to turn it into a solid story. (Yes, typewriters play a part in it.)
Everyone will want to know . . . which typewriter is your favorite?
My sentimental favorite is my Remington Noiseless No. 7, a black Art Deco beauty. It was my first and it will be my last. But I’m always on the lookout for the Perfect Typewriter, the one that provides the most enjoyable and sophisticated experience. Right now I’m thrilled by a rare machine from 1961 called an Optima Humber 99 that recently joined my collection: http://
Give us an interesting fact about your book.
It has a bookmark that's black and red, like a typewriter ribbon. Everyone loves it, but I can't take credit for it--it was my publisher's bright idea.
Can you share with us the best way to reach you and where to learn more about your book?
Ironically, in order to promote this book that advises us to take a step back from the digital, I’ve gone deeper into social media. Subverting the system from within—right? The website typewriterrevolution.
Interested in learning more about The Typewriter Revolution book? You can view a few of the page spreads below: