Sunday, June 23, 2013
Hemingway, the Beast, and Bleeding on The Typewriter
Somehow the interaction now, between writer and vehicle of prose, seems, comparatively, a rather mute endeavor; the quiet hum and whir of computer processing power, the silent acquiescence of a pristinely effective delete function, and the intangible narrative product that exists in the dark obscurity of binary code. It is there somewhere, encoded in ones and zeros, in dusty company with other long-forgotten files and jpgs. Saved and stored, it exists in the abstract - it cannot be seen, let alone bled on. But of course Hemingway was referring to the figurative outpouring of everything that is essential within us - to get down to the steady beat of heart, the visceral muscular heat, the lifeblood that nourishes and sustains...the darkly pulsating warmth that resides within. It is about becoming acquainted with the darkest parts of ourselves, the unacknowledged failings, the ignored and unclaimed, the proclivities we deny, the secrets we bury deep. In short - letting loose the beast that resides within; for it is only when we have a passing knowledge of these subterranean undercurrents, these sluggish Stygian marshes, that we can attempt to write them. To find the words that capture, entwine, and depict the beast- which is, in essentials, an emotional, bloody, visceral thing. For we are attempting a portrayal of humanity, are we not? And when pushed to the brink, when cornered and threatened, do we not bare our teeth and snarl? Retaining some instincts of Sahelanthropus tchadensis, our last common ancestor with chimpanzees....
It is not an easy thing - to recognize or depict - when something is so deeply felt and hardly understood; the translation of which seems more appropriate to a Viking-growl or the fierce facade of Gothic warriors, then to words. This collection of letters in of themselves seem fairly mundane articles, poor conveyers of what seems a much greater thing. Perhaps it is the attempt of such that Hemingway refers to.
And as for typewriters - this poignant yearning for past things might also be indicative of the technologically-driven rate of world-transformation. Life oft seems to hurtle forward at an unimaginable velocity - the nature, shape and manifest inner workings of binary chip technology rapidly transforming into something else...nanotechnology, virtual reality...three-dimensional...touch pads...e-books... perhaps the typewriter is a stable iconographic image of the engaged writer - the hunched absorption, the auditory scales of keys forcibly punched, the intensity of prose sounding out an accompanying rhythm in flying fingers and furiously working mind. Click click clack. Perhaps the writer's innate tendency to retreat is a psychological reaction, in part, to the perpetual haste, the onward rush of things. For when we stop to muse, to ponder a word, to savor it on our tongue like the literary equivalent of a fine vintage...do we not ease that headlong momentum just a little? We take deliberate pause. There is time to catch one's breath so to speak.
Perhaps the typewriter is gilded with the sepia-brush of nostalgia, belonging to a golden age of something impossibly pristine, and this is why it maintains an unsurpassed literary significance (or perhaps this is merely an archaeologically-driven idiosyncrasy of my own particular mind); that it must inherently be bygone and bypassed to be so appreciated. When we see a writer sweating over the keys in a movie...the pages impatiently torn and crumpled, the ink-stains, the blots, the smudges...does one not, even for a moment, wish for that visceral closeness with the text? With words that can be tangibly smeared, that seem more intrinsically a part - and thus reluctantly parted with; grimaced and winced, a pained tortured affair - as if we were wringing words from their preferred abode of quiet-ether to the solid imperfection of ink on a page. Coercing them with gritted teeth and determined mien, a bloody-forced progression, words shoved and contorted, bribed and coaxed until they spill out upon the page like animals in the circus obediently lining up for the opening act. The beast within. Does Hemingway tame it with his blood-sacrifice? Or does it merely cooperate for its own amusement?
So if it is all about the beast, and perhaps the portrayal of it (blood-spilling seeming a requisite to the process) then the crux is less the mechanism (typewriter) than the implied emotional investment behind it. Indubitably writers today are similarly intensely engaged in the literary endeavor...perhaps, for us, the emotional ferocity of typewritten novels might stem from the frustrations of inadequately inked-keys, or the half-hearted effectiveness of the white-out function, or the reams of paper crumpled on the floor in a visible reminder of literary failure. It is not that I do not appreciate the quiet efficiency of the computer, I just wonder whether the ferocious click-clacking of an intense narrative immersion facilitates bleeding Hemingway-style to a greater degree....whether somehow the beast is himself attuned to the clatter and rhythm of keystrokes; if he is, to a greater degree, repulsed by our stark efficiency, by our quietly humming immediacy and our limitless electronic databanks.