At this dark, cold time of year, when the Holidays seem to promise some extra leisure time, and the Holiday specials on television make it too painful to watch television, it’s comforting to think that we still have the old-fashioned option of sinking into an armchair by the fire and enjoying a good long read. That phrase "A good long read" was often spoken with nostalgia by my busy parents. It was something they dreamed about, but rarely achieved except around Christmastime and on summer vacations.
Nothing grabs our attention quite like the weather forecast. The bad news from Syria or Washington may be important, but the bad news from right over our heads is much more compelling. Weather is real, and it becomes even more real at this time of year. We listen with horrified fascination to hear when and how our lives are going to be disrupted by various combinations of snow, ice, flood and wind.
The Holidays are upon us, and I often wonder whether that word "holiday" is really an appropriate description of how we live at this time of year. The dictionary says that a holiday is "A period of rest and freedom" and "A day on which no work is done." Yet never are we so stressed and harassed by too many things to do as during the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year. The holiday comes later, when everyone has gone home and the decorations have come down.
There is a charming piece of music by Leroy Anderson called “The Typewriter” that requires a manual typewriter to be played onstage as part of the orchestra. When it was composed in 1950 this was no problem – typewriters were everywhere. When it was scheduled to be performed at the Staller Center at Stony Brook this month there was a problem. Where do you find a functioning typewriter these days?
One answer would be: in my basement, where I have at least five fully-functioning manual typewriters, that provide a reassuring link with the past.