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The Quick 10: 10 Authors and their Typewriters

I bought a vintage typewriter this weekend for $25. I don't think it's a particularly valuable model or anything, but it looks cool and makes a really satisfying typing noise. And there's no "1" key, because at that point in time, people were expected to use the lowercase "l" in place of the actual number one. If I can find ribbon I might actually type on it. Right now it sits on the china hutch that you have to pass to go to our bathroom, so every time I go past it I have to hit the button that makes it go "Ding!" It's driving my husband crazy. Anyway, I've obviously got typewriters on the brain, but I'm not the only one "“ these 10 authors liked theirs too.

hemingway1. Ernest Hemingway preferred to write standing up and kept his Royal Quiet de Luxe typewriter on a bookshelf in his Havana home, which is a museum these days. It was still at the museum until a couple of years ago, when it sold in an auction for $2750.
2. Jack Kerouac famously wrote On the Road using 12-foot rolls of paper. He later taped the rolls together, resulting in one huge scroll measuring 120 feet when unfurled. That's single spaced, no margins or paragraph breaks, by the way. It took him a mere three weeks to tap it out at his fast-and-furious 100-word-per-minute pace.

steinbeck3. John Steinbeck preferred his Hermes Baby, a model Hemingway also had on hand. The Baby was one of the first portable typewriters made in an age where the typing machines were notoriously heavy and cumbersome.
4. David Sedaris, whose dad used to sell IBM typewriters, used one until his boyfriend bought him a MacBook Air, sick of being stopped by security at airports. It's no surprise that he turned the switch into an anecdote: "˜"˜When forced to leave my house for an extended period of time, I take my typewriter with me, and together we endure the wretchedness of passing through the X-ray scanner. The laptops roll merrily down the belt, while I'm instructed to stand aside and open my bag. To me it seems like a normal enough thing to be carrying, but the typewriter's declining popularity arouses suspicion and I wind up eliciting the sort of reaction one might expect when travelling with a cannon. "˜It's a typewriter,' I say. "˜You use it when you write angry letters to airport authorities.'"

twain5. Mark Twain definitely didn't have a portability option, because he used the enormous Sholes & Glidden Treadle Model from 1874. The treadle looks like a hassle, but it was actually supposed to make things easier by providing a quicker carriage return. Twain had his customized, though, by replacing the treadle with a handle. Mr. Clemens is thought to have been the first author to ever submit a typewritten novel to a publisher.
6. John Updike used an Olivetti MP1 portable typewriter until the day he died. It was made the same year he was born "“ 1932- so he liked to tell people that the two of them were "Growing old and erratic together."

orwell7. George Orwell had a portable typewriter called the Remington Home Portable. Agatha Christie used the exact same model.
8. Hunter S. Thompson liked to abuse his red IBM Selectric by taking it out into the snow and shooting at it. It outlived him, though "“ after he shot himself, his body was found sitting at his typewriter with the single word "counselor" typed on the page in front of him.
9. David McCullough, the author behind 1776, uses a secondhand Royal Standard he bought in 1965. "I have written everything I've ever had published on it, and there is nothing wrong with it," he once said.

10. P.J. O'Rourke uses an IBM Selectric as well, saying his short attention span doesn't mix well with writing on a computer. And he's right "“ it's easy to get distracted by your e-mail and Twitter and Facebook and, well, mental_floss. He also says the typewriter is a good thing because it makes authors slow down. Stephen King once said that if he had a computer back in the day, he could have written three Cujos in the time it took to type the one. "Does the world need three times as many Cujos?" O'Rourke responded dryly.

Well, after researching all of that, I have an even more romanticized idea of typewriters than I did before. Jason, from now on, I'll be submitting all of my _floss articles on typewriter paper. I'll send you a telegram so you'll know when to expect them.
Any other typewriter enthusiasts out there? Is there anything I should know about my new treasure? And can you find old typewriter ribbon anywhere other than eBay?

Hemingway, Steinbeck, Twain and Orwell pictures from Poetic Home.

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9 Things You Should Keep in Mind Around Someone Observing Ramadan
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To mark the ninth (and most holy) month in the Islamic calendar, Muslims around the world observe Ramadan. Often compared to Lent in Christianity and Yom Kippur in Judaism, Ramadan is all about restraint. For one month, Muslims observing Ramadan fast during the day and then feast at night.

By abstaining from food and water (as well as sex, smoking, fighting, etc.) during daylight, Muslims strive to practice discipline, instill gratitude for what they have, and draw closer to Allah. To be respectful and not annoy observers, here are nine things you should never say or do to someone observing Ramadan.

1. DON'T JOKE ABOUT WEIGHT LOSS.

A traditional iftar meal.
A traditional iftar meal.
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Although it might be tempting to joke about Ramadan being a good excuse to lose weight, it is a time for spiritual reflection and is a serious matter. Observers undertake the challenge of fasting for religious and spiritual reasons rather than aesthetic ones. And, once the sun sets each night, many Muslims prepare a hearty iftar (the meal that breaks the fast) of dates, curries, rice dishes, and other delicious foods. The suhoor (the pre-dawn meal) is often fresh fruit, bread, cheese, and dishes that are high in fiber and complex carbohydrates. So the idea of a cleanse is pretty far from their minds.

2. DON'T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS.

An Indian Muslim student recites from the Quran in a classroom during the holy month of Ramadan.
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There are approximately 1.8 billion Muslims around the world, but not all of them observe Ramadan the same way. Although most observant Muslims fast for Ramadan, don't assume that every Muslim you meet has the same methods, traditions, and attitudes towards fasting. For some, Ramadan is more about prayer, reading the Qur'an, and performing acts of charity than merely about forgoing food and drink. And for those who may be exempted from the daily fasting, such as pregnant or nursing women, the elderly, or those with various health conditions, they might not appreciate the reminder from nosey busy-bodies that they aren't participating in the traditional way.

3. SAY "RAMADAN MUBARAK" INSTEAD OF "HAPPY RAMADAN."

A sign which reads
A sign which reads "Ramadan Kareem" in Arabic is seen pictured in front of the Burj Khalifa in downtown Dubai.
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Rather than wishing someone a happy Ramadan, being more thoughtful with your choice of words can show that you understand and respect the sanctity of their holy month. Saying "Ramadan Mubarak" or "Ramadan Kareem" are the traditional ways to impart warm wishes—they both convey the generosity and blessings associated with the month. The actual party comes after Ramadan, when Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr, an up to three-day festival that involves plenty of food, time with family, and gifts.

4. DON'T BE A FOOD PUSHER.

Muslim woman saying no to an apple.
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Even if the idea of not eating or drinking all day might be unfathomable to you, don't push food onto anyone observing Ramadan. While fasting all day for a month can cause mild fatigue, dehydration, and dizziness, don't try to convince participating Muslims to eat or drink something—they are fully aware of any side effects they may feel throughout the day. Instead, be respectful of their decision to fast and offer to lend a hand with something like chores, errands, or anything unrelated to food.

5. ACCEPT THAT WATER ISN'T ON THE MENU.

Dates and a glass of water.
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Muslims who observe Ramadan don't sip any liquids during daytime. No water, coffee, tea, or juice. Zilch. Going without water is even harder than going without food, so be aware of the struggle and accept it. It's all part of the sacrifice and self-discipline inherent in Ramadan.

6. RESPECT PEOPLE'S PRIVACY.

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Some Muslims choose not to fast during Ramadan for medical or other personal reasons, and they may not appreciate being badgered with questions about why they may be eating or drinking rather than fasting. Children and the elderly generally don't fast all day, and people who are sick are exempt from fasting. Other conditions that preclude fasting during Ramadan are pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menstruation (although, if possible, people generally make up the days later).

7. BE MINDFUL OF ENERGY LEVELS.

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Eschewing food and drink for hours at a time can cause lethargy, so be aware that Muslims observing Ramadan may be more tired than usual. Your Muslim friends and coworkers don't stop working for an entire month, but they may tweak their schedules to allow for more rest. They may also stay indoors more (to prevent overheating) and avoid unnecessary physical activity to conserve energy. So, don't be offended if they aren't down for a pick-up game of basketball or soccer. We can't all be elite athletes.

8. DON'T OBSESS OVER FOOD AND HUNGER.

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One of the worst things you can do to someone on a new diet is to obsess over all the cheeseburgers, pizza, and cupcakes they can't have. Similarly, most Muslims observing Ramadan don't want to have in-depth conversations about all the food and beverages they're avoiding. So, be mindful that you don't become the constant reminder of how many hours are left until sundown—just as you shouldn't joke about weight loss, you shouldn't call attention to any hunger pangs.

9. DON'T BE AFRAID TO EAT YOUR OWN FOOD.

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Although it's nice to avoid talking about food in front of a fasting Muslim, don't be afraid to eat your own food as you normally would. Seeing other people eating and drinking isn't offensive—Muslims believe that Ramadan is all about sacrifice and self-discipline, and they're aware that not everyone participates. However, perhaps try to avoid scheduling lunch meetings or afternoon barbecues with your Muslim colleagues and friends. Any of those can surely wait until after Ramadan ends.

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