How Nietzsche Turned me into a Reader

Hey! Nietzsche!I’m not really interested in giving people a quick introduction; I tend to mix my personal life, humour, sarcasm and knowledge into my book reviews and blog posts. However I do want to kick off talking about the book that turned me into a reader.  It wasn’t until 2009 that I discovered the joys of books and reading and something inside me clicked and I wanted to consume every book I saw. This life changing event was all because of one book, an Australian non-fiction title called Hey! Nietzsche! Leave Them Kids Alone! by Craig Schuftan.

At the time I listened to a lot of music and would have cited AFI, My Chemical Romance, Weezer, and so on as some of my favourite bands. In face I was right into the music that was been played on Triple J. Craig Schuftan was a radio producer at Triple J at the time and there was a short show he made for the station called The Culture Club. In this show he would talk about the connection rock and roll has to art and literary worlds. Friedrich Nietzsche was claiming, “I am no man, I am dynamite” well before AC/DC’s song TNT.

That was a real revelation for me and I picked up Hey! Nietzsche! Leave Them Kids Alone! (subtitled; The Romantic Movement, Rock and Roll, and the End of Civilisation as We Know It) and began reading it. However it didn’t stop there; this book connected the so called ‘emo’ movement with The Romantic Movement, I never thought these bands would have anything in common with the greats like Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley or John Keats but I had to find out.

Hey! Nietzsche! Leave Them Kids Alone! by  Craig Schuftan ended up taking half a year to complete; not because I was a slow reader but I wanted to know more,and  I read poetry by Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats, and researched online. I picked up books like Frankenstein (an obsession of mine), Dracula and Wuthering Heights just because they were mentioned. This was a weird turn in my life but my growing thirst for knowledge became an obsession with reading. I have now set a life goal to read everything on the 1001 Books you must read before you die list.

It is weird to think one book can have such a huge impact on my life but I credit Craig Schuftan (and my wife) for such a positive improvement in my life. I will eventually read Craig Schuftan’s books The Culture Club: Modern Art, Rock and Roll and other stuff your parents warned you about and Entertain Us!: The Rise and Fall of Alternative Rock in the Nineties but I’ve put them off because I suspect the same amount of research will be involved.

Has a book had such a positive impact in your life? I would love to know in the comments. Also are there any other books that explore the connections between art and literature with pop-culture?

Is It Possible To Be In Love With An Inanimate Object?

I just celebrated a not-insignificant milestone of a birthday (but I’m not telling which one). My girlfriends and I had decided that this year we were going to chip into a significant present for each other. Say, a piece of jewellery. The non-birthday girls would chip in a nominated amount, and anything above and beyond that would be contributed by she who was celebrating her birthday.

I couldn’t afford the Tiffany diamond ring I’ve been lusting after for all eternity, so I requested something else significant but that I probably wouldn’t buy for myself: an antique typewriter.

It was a big ask for my friends, I later realised, as they had to scour antique stores and online sales and find out what a reasonable price was for such a thing. Coincidentally, it was announced earlier this year that the last ever typewriter factory was shutting its doors, so typewriter values may have immediately astronomically increased.

I also didn’t give my friends a whole lot of help, stipulating vaguely only that if the typewriter were old and metal, I was pretty much guaranteed to like it. What they found (and what they gave me just last Saturday) was this masterpiece:

I honestly couldn’t have imagined a more perfect typewriter. It now sits front and centre in my lounge room and I’ve sat entranced examining its every detail—is it possible to be in love with an inanimate object? I’ve googled it too.

The typewriter’s an Underwood, a name that until Saturday meant nothing to me. I think it’s a No. 5, the most common but also the most iconic of the Underwood typewriter models (if you’re a typewriter expert and I have this wrong, please feel free to correct me). Here’s what I’ve found out (in no particular order):

  • The Underwood family used to make typewriter ribbons and carbon paper for then typewriter manufacturer Remington. When Remington decided to make their own ribbon and carbon paper, the Underwoods decided to make their own typewriters.
  • The first Underwood typewriters they made were called ‘No. 1s’ and ‘No. 2s’. Sorry, but it did make me teehee.
  • The No. 5 was the most successful (and recognisable) typewriter of all time.
  • Underwood typewriters appear often in pop culture, including (if Wikipedia is to be believed):
    • In the 1991 Coen Brothers film Barton Fink, the character Jack Warner says: ‘Actors? Schmucks. Screenwriters? Schmucks with Underwoods.’
    • In Catch Me If You Can, which starred Leonardo Di Caprio, Carl Hanratty says he made a forged cheque with ‘a stencil machine and an Underwood’.
    • Jessica Fletcher, the main character in Murder She Wrote, used an Underwood typewriter.
    • Authors William Faulkner and F. Scott Fitzgerald used Underwoods.
    • To Kill A Mockingbird character Mr Underwood types on a typewriter all day.
    • Award-winning Australian film Mary and Max features an Underwood.
    • Video game BioShock refers to ‘Under Tree’, a comical reference to ‘Underwood’.

Did I mention that I love this typewriter? Sure, I’ll never use it. In fact, I’ll never even move it from its resting/display place, having discovered just how entirely, unfathomably, made-from-buckets-of-metal heavy it is. But I will love and adore it. Besides, surely owning an antique typewriter makes me more inspired, talented, and writerly?