Home Biography Schedule Directory Writing Contact www.robindeacon.com


“The problem is always the same; the act of writing is not very interesting cinematically.  Its a guy, sitting. Maybe he's interesting, maybe he wears a hat, maybe he drinks and smokes. But basically he sits and types. Its an interior act.”

David Cronenberg talks here about his experiences adapting William Burroughs novel Naked Lunch for cinema. How he wanted to make a film depicting the physical process of writing but wanted to avoid the stereotypical - close up shots of writing devices and apparatus, hands frantically gripping pens, random scribbling or fingers tapping a keyboard, more often than not, the text tumbling out fully formed. And continuing in these stereotypical terms, occasionally, the author will pause, frown, and then continue writing with a fresh sense of purpose. And if there is a voice (saying the words out loud at the moment they are written, naturally) it necessarily sounds like the actual voice of the author depicted to be writing. Maybe the author will hit the keys harder when what was written was really meant, and it would register some kind of actual effect. Not only the immediacy of seeing the text appear on paper the moment after you had hit the key, but the sense that the impression left on the paper could be nuanced – something soft, or something that splits the paper. Here, music journalist Lester Bangs describes being invited on stage to play 'live typewriter' with the J Geils band in 1974. Think Smith Corona as Fender Stratocaster:

“At this point, I realized the absolute ludicrousness of what I was now doing before a packed house of umpteen    thousand sneering peers. The first decision I had to make was whether to treat it as a total joke and just peck at the thing desultorily, or really get into the funky, bloozy woozies and try to peck along in rhythm. Hell, they had it miked, I started trying to play on the beat, grinning and nodding at the rest of the group who grinned and nodded back. The writing was coming out great too: 'VDKHEOQSNCHSHNELXIEN (+&H-      SXN+(E@JN?.' I even through in a bit of Townshend/Alice Cooper destructo theatre: for the song's climax I stood up and kicked over the typewriter, bench and all. Then I jumped up and down on it till I smashed it to bits, or two of them at least. It felt good, purging somehow.”

A machine being humanised, or a body being mechanised? And again, there may be that moment when the writing machine will 'say' something that the writer doesn't recognise. Something the writer hasn't heard before. But if the author claims to confide in their writing machine – then the machine will claim authorship.

One year, I decided to not attend the school disco. Instead I stayed at home, and concentrated on my GCSE English assignment. What emerged was a short story entitled 'Underground' about a man who is inexplicably chased around the London tube network by a brutal and unrelenting psychopath. The origins of this story are unclear, but it was written on this typewriter. It was purchased in the mid 1960's by my mother for the purpose of learning how to type – to keep herself busy she said. I felt as though to be a proper writer, one needed to use a typewriter. And I've always said that one of the things that motivated me to write in the first place was the existence of the  three plays and one novel that my father wrote as a young man. Unseen, unpublished, unperformed – and again, all written on this typewriter.

As time passed, I began to think about the implications of objects that record everything. Not in the sense of a computer having a memory that can be accessed through data retrieval – keystroke by keystroke – that's too easy. But rather like the idea of the stone tape – the idea that past events are somehow recorded into the fabric of a building, and occasionally manifest themselves in the form of paranormal disturbances. In this case, I started thinking about the notion that everything that has been written on this machine still somehow  inhabits it – and that subsequent users  are locked into a feedback loop of tropes and narratives contained within the machine. I had an image of these texts not only buried in a file under my fathers bed, but also buried within the machines subconscious, occasionally to emerge and distort the ego of the writer.