What is the earliest canonical work of literature written on a typewriter?
May 19, 2010 1:48 PM   Subscribe

What is the earliest canonical work of literature written on a typewriter?

For extra credit: What is the most recent canonical work of literature written longhand?
posted by Joe Beese to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Supposedly, Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

Bonus: Much of Gravity's Rainbow, also supposedly, was written longhand on graph paper (on Manhattan Beach, CA).
posted by Damn That Television at 1:54 PM on May 19, 2010

Quicksilver was written longhand, if the internet is to be trusted. Neil Gaiman also writes first drafts in longhand. Stephen King and Joe Haldeman are longhand first-drafters.
posted by jessamyn at 1:57 PM on May 19, 2010

Best answer: And here's a longer essay [also not well-cited] that says that the Twain ms was actually Life on the Mississippi, but that no one really knows, offers some other options.
posted by jessamyn at 1:59 PM on May 19, 2010

More recently than the books discussed in jessamyn's link, Neal Stephenson also wrote Anathem in longhand using a fountain pen; it was published in 2008. I'm not sure what you consider a 'canonical work of literature,' though.
posted by jedicus at 1:59 PM on May 19, 2010

From what I've gathered by reading interviews with (and profiles of) various contemporary authors, writing in longhand is not yet rare.
posted by Houyhnhnm at 2:00 PM on May 19, 2010

On preview, as DTT says, Clemens was an early adopter with the typewriter; googling reveals some disagreement as to whether it was Tom Sawyer or Life on the Mississippi. Wiki tells us that Henry James dictated some of his novels to a typist.

For the extry credit part, many writers still compose in longhand, for various idiosyncratic reasons. The one that comes immediately to mind is Neal Stephenson, who wrote some or all of the Baroque Cycle books longhand (if memory serves, I believe in part this was because a bad hard drive ate a first draft).
posted by aught at 2:03 PM on May 19, 2010

Nice bit of dissonance in the fact that William Gibson wrote Neuromancer, the definitive cyberpunk novel, longhand.
posted by Babblesort at 2:14 PM on May 19, 2010

Best answer: J.K. Rowling writes her novels in longhand, so she might be a contender for "most recent" (if you consider the Harry Potter books to be canonical literature).
posted by amyms at 2:25 PM on May 19, 2010

James Ellroy also writes his novels in longhand. (Again, not quite canonical literature, but still a major contemporary author.)
posted by scody at 2:43 PM on May 19, 2010

Best answer: as an addendum: IIRC Twain was a huge technophile, epically when it came to printing. He lost a gob tone of money (between $150- 300 K, depending on who you believe, which is between 3.5 and 7 million current dollars) by investing in failed printing technology.

So, it makes total sense he would be an early adopter of using the typewriter to write his books.
posted by edgeways at 2:44 PM on May 19, 2010

Clemens was an early adopter with the typewriter

Though he was initially embarrassed by the idea of becoming an endorsee for Remington, in later life he endorsed both typewriters and the Conklin Crescent fountain pen, which was hardly less innovative for its day. Complete technophile.

Longhand's still very common; I remember an event with Donna Tartt (not canonical, but The Secret History sold very well) where she talked about her love of large notebooks and hatred of word processors. Ted Hughes once wrote about the way that pen-on-paper creates a kind of mental friction -- he thought it the memory of struggling with literacy in early life -- and that process of making indelible marks is still one that appeals to lots of writers. (Will Self makes notes in longhand, but composes on a manual typewriter, as illustrated by his postit-tastic writing room in 360 degrees.)
posted by holgate at 3:04 PM on May 19, 2010

babblesort -

from wiki : An anecdote often recited in cybercultural enclaves and English departments holds that Neuromancer was written on a manual typewriter; the author has confirmed that the novel was written on a 1927 model of an olive-green Hermes portable typewriter, which looked to him as "the kind of thing Hemingway would have used in the field".
posted by radiosilents at 3:23 PM on May 19, 2010

I remember a documentary about the Master and Commander series showing Patirck O'Brian writing long hand, and I seem to remember he expressed a desire to write a whole novel using an actual quill pen.

I remember recently, in the arts interview/feature radio shows I listen to at least a couple of contemporary writers mention that they write long hand so, as other have stated, it's still not unusual. I'd imagine using an actual typewriter is rarer... found this article that says Cormac McCarthy still uses one
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:58 PM on May 19, 2010

Something in the back of my head is reminding me that Clive Barker writes all of his books in longhand.
Hardly canonical, I guess, but some pretty good genre fiction.
posted by Dr. Wu at 6:47 PM on May 19, 2010

Extra credit answer - Elmore Leonard, quoted just a few days ago:

I don’t have a word processor, e-mail, any of that stuff. I write in longhand mostly, then put it on my typewriter as I go along.

Canonical among certain folks, anyway.
posted by mediareport at 12:14 AM on May 20, 2010

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