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Last week, Cormac McCarthy’s old typewriter (the one he’s used since 1963) sold at auction for $254,500 to an anonymous buyer who I just KNOW is my as-yet-unknown benefactor. Needless to say, I’ve never been so excited about Christmas. I’ve envisioned the exact size of the box, the color of the wrapping paper, the weight of the gift in my lap…thanks in advance, whoever you are! You really shouldn’t have!
I’ve given it some thought, and I don’t intend to use the typewriter for actual writing–that would be like taking a champion racehorse and making it give trail rides to fat tourists!–but instead I’ll put it to pasture, letting it sit in some sunlit window, with a vase of flowers nearby. I’ll change the flowers every few days, and I won’t let the flower-water get all reeky. I’ll dust it with one of those feather duster things, that until now had seemed totally pointless (don’t they just stir up the dust?) After all, this is a typewriter that deserves a quiet, dignified retirement.
And, I confess, I’m a little afraid that putting my fingers to McCarthy’s keys would inspire in me the same dark, beautiful, grotesque and haunting visions that have fueled his novels. I mean, I love his novels. I have an autographed copy of The Crossing, and it ranks right up there with my cat on my list of things-to-rescue-when-the-house-burns-down. But I’m not sure I want to have some of those visions originating in my own head, where the page can’t be turned, or the front cover shut tight. Once, I was so angry at McCarthy for his treatment of a character that I threw his book across the room–something you can’t do with your own head. It was Outer Dark, and I’m still mad that he didn’t give Rinthy the final chapter. I’m still wrestling with a lot of his work. But McCarthy’s refusal to pander to readers is also what makes him so great, so visionary, so challenging and infuriating.
Whether you love his work or hate it, it’s encouraging that Cormac McCarthy–a difficult, literary writer who at several points in his career could not afford toothpaste–can sell his old typewriter for almost as much as Michael Jackson’s moonwalk glove, which sold for $350,000 a few months after his death.
And that someone would buy it for me–a person who can’t even be trusted with dry-clean-only shirts–is wonderfully unexpected. Bless you, whoever you are. Just as soon as you reveal your identity, I’m going to totally offer to buy you lunch.
(For more sensible news about authors of the West, check out our friend Jenny Shank’s Book Roundup)