Click, Clack, Moo – Cows That Type

Does anyone type on a typewriter any more?

Doreen Cronin’s delightful children’s book – Click, Clack, Moo-Cows That Type – was outdated by the time it was published in 2000, but it is a testament to the power of the written word in these days of leaving electronic messages.  With art by Betsy Lewin, Cronin’s picture book has literate cows and chickens with demands for better living conditions written to Farmer Brown in typed notes.  With the duck as the mediator, all ends well – with a funny twist at the end.  Adults will appreciate the innuendo; children will like the whimsy – and might have a few questions about that vintage relic that has been replaced by a computer keyboard.

Typewriters offer nostalgia and a little magic to the final product – but not always.  David Sedaris only recently converted to a Mac for convenience – not for the ease of the keys, but for the ease of getting through airport security.

“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 traveling with a cannon.

It’s a typewriter,’ I say. ‘You use it to write angry letters to airport security.” David Sedaris

I still fondly remember my first typewriter, and my satisfaction as I slammed the carriage into the next line.

Related Review:

Read a review of Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk –here

The Blind Contessa’s New Machine

What if you knew you were going blind?  What images would you try to imprint on your mind before all went dark?

In Carey Wallace’s The Blind Contessa’s New Machine, Carolina Fantoni, a young beautiful Italian, who grew up with gardens, lemon trees, and her own quiet retreat by the lake near her house, finds herself going blind, just as she is about to be married.  No one believes her, at first, except Turri, older by ten years, an inventor and her childhood conspirator and partner in exploring.

The story has a fairy tale quality as if the princess, in this case Carolina the Contessa, finds true love and vision only after she loses her sight.  With a nineteenth century Italian setting, Carey’s language beautifully underscores the descriptions of people and objects, bringing them clearly into Carolina’s vision as well as the reader’s.  When Carolina dreams, she sees; when Liza, her maid, lies about the colors of her gown, the pictures in the books, and her perfume, Carolina instinctively knows.

Carolina marries Pietro, who, despite his charm and princely demeanor, can figuratively only see as far as his nose; his love for Carolina’s beauty alone cannot sustain the marriage.  It’s Turri’s passion and true love that help her “see” through her other senses, and eventually leads to his invention of the typewriter so that the lovers can communicate and set the times for their secret assignations.

Based on a true story, with the Contessa’s typed letters verified in Michael Adler’s 1973 nonfiction compilation of typewriter history, The Writing Machine, Carey’s book creates the motivation behind the invention.

The Blind Contessa’s New Machine is a slim book you could slide into your pocket – lovely, romantic, and mostly true.