When a typewriter is not just a typewriter - it's Cormac McCarthy's 1963 Olivetti

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CORMAC MCCARTHY.jpg

Cormac McCarthy's office is no country for old typewriters.

typewriter.jpgYou can have your laptops. Your iPhones. Your netbooks and Microsoft Word, Google Docs and Kindles. All of them fully capable of producing the printed word and displaying literary genius. But NONE of them are as cool as this 1963 Olivetti manual typewriter.

This unassuming typewriter produced every word the esteemed writer Cormac McCarthy has banged out in the last 36 years.

McCarthy wrote a letter of authentication - on the machine itself, of course - to auction house Christie's in New York, where the heavily aged typewriter is expected to fetch up to $20,000:

"It has never been serviced or cleaned other than blowing out the dust with a service station hose. ... I have typed on this typewriter every book I have written including three not published. Including all drafts and correspondence I would put this at about five million words over a period of 50 years."

The New York Times has a brief explanation from the Pulitzer Winner on why he's still banging away on a typewriter - beat up and ancient or brand new and anachronistic - in this day and age. A habit particularly puzzling to some the younger generation, particulary since he does drag the Olivetti to the ends of the Earth for his prolific work.

He remembers one summer when some graduate students were visiting the Santa Fe Institute. "I was in my office clacking away," he said. "One student peered in and said: 'Excuse me. What is that?' "


"I don't have some method of working," he said, adding that he often works on different projects simultaneously. A few years ago, when he was in Ireland, "I worked all day on four different projects," he said. "I worked two hours on each. I got a lot done, but that's not usual."

So McCarthy parts with his Olivetti, with the profits going to the Santa Fe Institute, a nonprofit interdisciplinary scientific research organization in his hometown. Must be time to jump into technology and move up to a laptop after more than a dozen novels - including his first, The Orchard Keeper written working as an auto mechanic in Chicago in 1965, screenplays, letter, ideas, tangents and characters were hammered out old school, right?

Wrong. He's apparently already got a shiny, brand new Olivetti - exact same model - for less than $50. That includes shipping.

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