“You know, though, there’s a crack between reading and becoming. One thing is not the other. A seam, it seems, and here it’s brought to life. Through it we are aware again of light.”
–Ander Monson, from Letter to a Future Lover.
I found this old adding machine tucked into a forgotten, quiet corner of a used bookstore in Ventura, CA. I didn’t know that this particular brand of machine was invented by the grandfather of Beat writer William Burroughs, who wrote a collection of essays called, The Adding Machine.
Technology changes so quickly these days…..people are lining up outside Apple Stores for the iPhone 6, and when I was growing up, a family had one phone that sat on a table, or it was mounted on a wall and required spinning a rotary dial to register a specific number. Zeros were the longest to dial because they were required to travel the entire circumference of the rotary. I can still hear that distinct, mechanical sound, and, oddly, I can remember the smell of my grandparents’ old, black rotary phone…an interesting mix of resin and cigarette smoke.
I never worked an adding machine. By the time I was in high school, early pocket calculators were replacing the slide rules that most students of physics had sticking out of their back pockets. Still, I love the typewriter-like faces (another machine now obsolete) of these adding machines, now relegated to the quiet corners of memory.
Taking Shots The Photographs of William S. Burroughs
“There is only one thing a writer can write about: what is in front of his senses at the moment of writing… I am a recording instrument… I do not presume to impose “story” “plot” “continuity”… insofar as I succeed in direct recording of certain areas of psychic process I may have limited function… I am not an entertainer…” from Naked Lunch
Apparently, Burroughs recorded life using more than a pen. A new book has been published, Taking Shots: The Photographs of WIlliam S. Burroughs, the catalog that accompanied an exhibit of William S. Burroughs’s photographs at The Photographers Gallery in London. It seems there are more than a few writers who also took pictures, including Jack London, Eudora Welty, Ralph Ellison, Wright Morris, and William Faulkner.