I was perusing the local bookstore the other day (which sounds better than desperately trying to come up with a blog-post idea), and Michael Gustafson’s book Notes from a Public Typewriter caught my interest.
I’m never quite sure what causes a book to jump out and catch my interest (that’s probably a post for another day), but for this book, it was a combination of the cover and the promise the title suggested. The book was featured in an NPR Books article this past April (which I vaguely remember reading) and you can read the details here.
Basically, Michael set up the typewriter in his bookstore in Ann Arbor and let customers type away. He initially thought maybe one customer would start a story and others would add to it over time when they passed by. Instead what he wound up with thousands of pages of:
“Love letters, poems, quotes, sprawling meditations on life. Notes written over the top of others, single words, perfectly spaced paragraphs”
“It’s just been a wonderful sort of diary of a town,” says Michael, “happening in a bookstore.”
It’s always fascinating when something like this grows organically into something totally unexpected. Last year I talked about a similar type of unexpected project – the Big Ball of Paint – which was intended to be a 1000-coats-of-paint project to see what the paint-layer cross sections would look like that evolved into a still-growing 14-foot (circumference) 2.5 ton ball of more than 25,000 layers of paint that is part tourist attraction, part collaborative project.
The ball of paint didn’t turn into a book like the typewriter notes did, but it was equally collaborative and creative.
Going back to the notes on the typewriter, although the experiment didn’t turn into the single long-story that Michael envisioned at the onset, it instead turned into a book full of stories, all told just a few words at a time.
I can’t wait to read them all.
Also, I feel a strange need to go unearth that old typewriter from the garage. Who knows, maybe there are stories lurking there too.