Tag Archives: Writing

1895: A-ka-u-ku

In 1895, King Njoya of the Bamum, an ethnic group from what is now western Cameroon, invented an alphabet to record the history of his people. Njoya, who traced his linaege back 16 or 17 generations of kings, was insipred … Continue reading

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1991: Time’s Arrow

In Martin Amis’s 1991 novel, Time’s Arrow, time flows backwards. It’s not simply that the events are narrated in reverse order; rather, it’s as if the characters were in a film being show in reverse. Here’s how eating works, for … Continue reading

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1753: Dedication

Tobias Smollett dedicated his third novel to himself: TO DOCTOR ——— You and I, my good friend, have often deliberated on the difficulty of writing such a dedication as might gratify the self-complacency of a patron, without exposing the author … Continue reading

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1939: That Mighty Obstruction

Ernest Vincent Wright’s 1939 novel, Gadsby, was written without words that contain the letter “e.” Here is the opening: If youth, throughout all history, had had a champion to stand up for it; to show a doubting world that a … Continue reading

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1927: Work in Progress

On May 20, 1927, James Joyce wrote to Harriet Shaw Weaver about what should happen if he were unable to complete Finnegans Wake. Another writer, Joyce said, should take it up and finish it; he had the person in mind: … Continue reading

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1939: Typewriter

This giant Underwood typewriter was on display in the Business Systems and Insurance Building at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. It weighed 14 tons and worked—letters could be typed on stationery measuring 9 by 12 feet.

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1936: Then It Will Be Over

Here we are, alone again. It’s all so slow, so heavy, so sad … I’ll be old soon. Then at last it will be over. So many people have come into my room. They’ve talked. They haven’t said much. They’ve … Continue reading

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