Merrilly we go along

merrill biogSomething about American book production values… Look! Just a real pleasure, and even buying them is more exciting – you feel like spending your money is an occasion.

And can I also say, it got here in three days from New York. UPS. Feels like being a somebody.

And the really tragic thing is, no time to dive in yet, because I’m (actually) doing background reading! The Collected Prose is on the go at the mo, reading his interviews and they are great. I just love it when he talks about The Changing Light at Sandover. It’s one thing to spend decades over a homemade Ouija board; another to give interviews and write articles about it for serious journals, and just expect to take people along with you. I love him. The key is about this lightness, a lightness that makes things bearable, if you will… It is slightly harder to achieve without money, true, and slightly unfashionable at the moment I think. But more anon, when I come to write about it.

And look at that face. That is a man who remained open to life. Salinger had a line about Seymour Glass, the only unguarded face in New York…

In other news, I have been taking enquiries about my impending ten-week whistle-stop tour of the techniques of poetry. It’s a summertime special, all in one, brush up your Shakespeare (and your demanding contemporaries), self-contained version of my usual year-long class. Meets Tuesday evenings in Covent Garden starting on the 28th; great for anyone who wants a refresher or just wants to find out more about how the various poets, formal and free, do it. Email me if you’d like to join.

And in further news, I spent a few hours of today, when I should have been reading or writing, cleaning and fixing a 1955 Smith-Corona Silent-Super typewriter. I am in love with it. These are really hard to get in the UK, and they type like a DREAM. It’s an amazing classic piece of mid-century, back-to-the-future engineering and Americana. Even looking at one you are filled to the brim with other people’s hopes and dreams… here it is when it was on eBay:

Silent-Super eBay pic

Unfortunately this one when I got it was riddled with rust, and the outside of it even now – a shade or two lighter – looks a bit shellshocked. I don’t mind that so much; and the muddy gunk, nicotine mixed with oil and dust, is coming out nicely with elbow grease and meths. So that’s nice. And the o was sticking and making it impossible to type – have you noticed how often we use the letter o? – and I got it fixed today and was JUBILANT. [After pic to follow in the morning when the light’s better]

But the very next thing that happened, after me typing a page of jubilation, was that I went back in and cleaned the bit inside the back of the carriage where it opens up. You’d think that wu;d be a good thing. And I cleaned the type itself, which hadn’t been attended to, and you’d thing that would be a good thing too.

And now the tops of the letters don’t print. It’s uneven, they print sometimes and not others, and I wonder if the rubber on the platen (the roller) is uneven, and I wonder if I disturbed some ecosystem, somebody’s hopes and dreams, but I can’t think what I did that could make that happen. It is SOOOO frustrating. I had to pack it back up in its case. I can’t afford to send it to the Typewriter Man. Not just now.

In yet other news, I have bought, in the Mind shop, the entirety of ‘Six Feet Under’. Woohoo! Five box sets! I’m not sure whether I might be able to use that as a way of channelling James Merrill…


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