Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Traveling with a Desktop Typewriter?

I came across this today: "One day I agreed to drive the person I knew at that time only as Professor Derrida from his house to the Baltimore train station. He was leaving to spend two days in New York and give a conference, probably at Columbia University. He was waiting outside with a fairly big suitcase when I arrived in my VW bug. When I began to lift his suitcase to put it in the backseat - since it clearly wasn't going to fit into the miniscule trunk of the VW - he told me to be careful not to strain myself while putting it in the car, since, as he put it, it was "a little heavy." It was not a little heavy but a hundred times heavier than heavy, and it took a superhuman effort to get it into the car. I thought to myself that for a two-day stay in New York, this particular French professor was certainly bringing a lot of things with him. He smiled, guessing what I must have been thinking, and explained that he in fact had very few clothes in his suitcase and what weighed so much were his books, his files, and most of all his typewriter, without which he never traveled anywhere. And if at the time, graduate students like me had very little, light portable typewriters, Derrida carried with him in his suitcase a real desk typewriter that was solid enough to withstand the constant onslaught of his writing. This is what it is to be an intellectual, a writer, I said to myself: he never travels without his library, his notes, or his typewriter." (David Carroll, "Jacques Derrida or the Gift of Writing: When Something Happens" SubStance 34 (2005), pp. 60-71, 63-64)

"This is what it is to be an intellectual"—really? Derrida's behavior is more than just a bit strange and has little to do with intelligence. What about writing by hand or with another type writer? And what about a portable typewriter? They did make them, you know! But I guess a prtable typewriter would not have been up to Derrida's forceful writing.

Tn any case, his obsession was today's equivalent of carrying a desktop computer, large keyboard, monitor, and all the cables with you rather than a note- or netbook or iTouch. It's outright weird.

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