Just our type: 'Notes from a Public Typewriter' comes to Literati on March 30

By Matt Giles - Associate Producer

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

ANN ARBOR - "I use a manual typewriter -- and the United States Postal Service -- almost every day," actor Tom Hanks wrote in a 2013 New York Times op-ed. "My snail-mail letters and thank-you notes, office memos and to-do lists, and rough -- and I mean very rough -- drafts of story pages are messy things, but the creating of them satisfies me like few other daily tasks." It's true. There is a certain charm to the feeling of having typed something on a typewriter, whether it's a full page, or a simple sentence. More and more people, we've learned, love typewriters, not just the famous A-list actor, and if you're ever looking to try your hand at manual typing, you may do so at Literati Bookstore. 

The public typewriter is available for anyone who's willing to try to leave messages for passers-by, as well as store owners Michael and Hilary Gustafson, and has become so popular that there is now a book, "Notes from a Public Typewriter," co-edited by Michael Gustafson and Oliver Uberti, which both editors will discuss on March 30 at 7 p.m. The book combines Gustafson and Uberti's favorite notes and includes essays and photos meant to create an ode to community and the written word.

"When Hilary and I began Literati Bookstore, we set out a typewriter that anyone could use," Gustafson said via email. "Over the years, thousands of people have typed notes -- about love, loss, and everything in-between. This book, 'Notes from a Public Typewriter,' is a collection of our favorite notes, essays, and photographs about this public experiment of ours. 

"A long time ago, I inherited my grandfather's 1930s Smith Corona. I immediately fell in love with it, and have loved typewriters ever since. Our bookstore's logo is based on that typewriter, and I thought, 'Well, wouldn't it be neat to put out a typewriter that anyone can type on?'

"I like to think of it as the World's Smallest Publishing House -- there are no agents, no editors. Just a blank page, and you. This is a book not only about the notes people have left on our typewriter, but also about this wonderful community who have supported us over the years, about independent bookstores, and the magic of the written word."

About Michael Gustafson 

Gustafson is the co-owner of Literati Bookstore, an independent bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He lives in Ann Arbor with his wife and Literati Bookstore co-owner, Hilary.

About Oliver Uberti 

Uberti is an award-winning graphic designer and was senior design editor at National Geographic before turning to books. He is the co-author and designer of two books published by Penguin in the U.K., "London: The Information Capital," in 2014, and "Where the Animals Go," in 2016. He lives in Los Angeles. 

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