The One Where Megan Pretends to be Bob Dylan and Fixes Up a Typewriter

1:00 pm

So, back in my first year of university, way, way back in 2011, I bought a secondhand typewriter off of eBay. I can't remember how much it was, somewhere between £30-£75. I had a student loan, I didn't care how much anything was. (This way of thinking isn't serving me well now these loans are actually something I need to pay off.) Flash-forward to now, I finally decided it was the time to fix this baby up as a fun little project to end the year. Something I thought would take me through until December actually only took me a week thanks to the pretty good condition this was in, the speediness of eBay deliveries, and, honestly, how much fun the whole pursuit was.

The typewriter I own is, I believe, a 1964 Royal Safari, but it's hard to be completely sure as the decal has come off of the front. Thanks to some PDFs of the original manual I found online I've been able to narrow it down, and the 1964 model is the closest fit. It's a portable typewriter which means it comes in a very clunky carry case that I keep stowed on a shelf for storage, and it's very similar to a model Bob Dylan used so 'swoon' indeed. Obviously the glorious blue colour was a selling point for me and fortunately it's quite a hardy design so worries about using the right cleaning materials were minimal.

1. Ribbon

The first thing I really wanted to get sorted out was replacing the ribbon so I could actually, you know, type with this thing. The one it arrived with was a simple black ink, but after reading the manual I could see that this did originally come with a half-black/half-red ribbon, meaning you could type in two colours (there's a lever on the side of the machine that changes this alignment for you, so reloading the ribbon isn't necessary when you want to switch between the two colours). Pretty fancy. It was pretty easy to find this ribbon on eBay for a really good price, and loading it into the typewriter didn't take much hassle. My only recommendation to people doing this would be to wear gloves because the ink is really transferable and I made the mistake of doing all of this on a white coffee table with bare hands. An inky massacre.

2. Cleaning

Once I had the ribbon loaded, I tested every key to see which were sticking. I think it's pretty typical for typewriters to jam after several uses as they oil they use to lubricate the arms (arms? What is the correct terminology here?) gathers dust and all sorts of gross stuff and everything gets gummed together. As I said before, this is a pretty hardy machine so I used, god forbid, nail varnish remover on cotton swabs to get between the arms and clear things out. I certainly wasn't taking any photos of this part of the process as the entire table was covered in disgusting, blackened, gunky buds. This was a very glamorous project. The rest of the typewriter I wiped over with a damp cloth, I gave the actual keys themselves a bit of a scrub to remove fingerprints (sounds far more NCIS than I expected: CHECK FOR PRINTS, DUCKIE), and the cleaning job was pretty much done.

3. Learning the ropes

Everything up and running, it was time to actually sit and read this PDF manual I found online. I cannot praise the internet as a 'thing' enough for making these things readily available (and Nick at This typewriter was a particularly confusing one to get my head around as it has the ability to set your margins for you, and even write in columns. There's about six keys for either of those bloody functions so it took a fair bit of practice, but now I feel like a pro. And I will also never use columns.

4. Looking ahead

As you can see from the photos, I'm currently only using my typewriter for the very, very important job of writing lists. After a little practice I'm hoping to start using it on slightly heftier projects, maybe with some short stories or letters for my friends. The actual process of writing with this typewriter is hugely satisfying and the fact I cleaned it up myself even more so. It's taking a lot of strength to not buy another typewriter to do up as I think I'd like the challenge of something a little older that needs a bit more care. Time to Google what typewriter Ginsberg used...

M x


Book Review: Bad Girls Throughout History by Ann Shen*

9:54 am

* My copy of Bad Girls Throughout History was kindly sent to me upon request from Abrams & Chronicle *

As soon as I saw Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World* on Abrams & Chronicle's Twitter feed, I knew I was in love. Ann Shen's new release details the lives of 100 amazing women through time who have broken the rules that restricted them, from the biblical Lilith to the modern revolutionary Malala Yousafzai, by way of dancers, scientists, writers, explorers, actors, and fighters.

Ann chooses such a refreshingly broad spectrum of women to focus in in this volume. She reaches far-flung corners of the globe to teach you about the women you may otherwise not have been introduced to but thoroughly deserve their story to be told. Some of my favourites include:

  • Diana Nyad, the 64-year-old who became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage.
  • Junko Tabei, the first woman to climb to the summit of Everest, who died at the age of 77 on the day I'm writing this.
  • Christine Jorgensen, an actor and the first publicly-known trans woman in America.
  • Dorothy Dandridge, the first African-American to be nominated for the best actress Oscar.
  • Alice Guy-Blaché, the world's first female film director and the inventor of narrative film.

Those are simply five of such an incredible collection that offers inspiration on every page and at every age. Ann's beautiful illustrations are simply the cherry on top of the cake, with each woman's story accompanied by a full-colour portrait and brush lettering (which reminds me that I really need to sign up to a calligraphy class). I know this book is going to hold pride of place on my shelf for many years to come.

This gorgeous book was published by Chronicle Books on 6th September and retails at the outstandingly good price of £12.99 for such a pretty hardcover. I think it would be the perfect gift this Christmas for the student or twenty-something with big dreams in your life.

M x


Quick Book Review: Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed

1:00 pm

Brave Enough (Atlantic Books, 2015) is a book of quotes. It's as simple as that. I was looking for some inspiration and the lovely Cheryl Strayed popped back up onto my radar after disappearing post-Wild last June. Reviewing a book of quotes seemed like a bit of a pointless task to me, so I'm going to share with you a few of my highlights from this quick read. All quotes are from Cheryl herself (I don't think I've ever said one quotable thing in my life that wasn't crude, honestly). It's one of those ones you'll go back to when you need a kick up the butt.

'The body knows. When your heart sinks. When you feel sick to your gut. When something blossoms in your chest. When your brain gloriously pops. That's your body telling you the One True Thing. Listen to it.'

'Alone had always felt like an actual place to me, as if it weren't a state of being, but rather a room where I could always retreat to be who I really was.'

'Be the captain. You are the captain.'

'Don't own other people's crap.'

'Would you be a better or worse person if you forgave yourself for the bad things you did?'

'You let time pass. That's the cure. You survive the days. You float like a rabid ghost through the weeks. You cry and wallow and lament and scratch your way back up through the months. And then one day you find yourself alone on a bench in the sun and you close your eyes and lean your head back and you realize you're okay.'

M x


September 2016 Book Haul

9:16 am

I write this soothing my throat with Lemsip. That is not a murky cup of tea. I have Freshers Flu and I'm not even a student.

Leaving the Atocha Station - Ben Lerner (Coffee House Press, 2011)
An actual spontaneous book-recommendation purchase when browsing the Amnesty store in Cambridge. My wonderful friend Dan (so wonderful he definitely won't be reading this) pointed this Lerner novel out to me, which I had never heard of before, but I trust his judgement when it comes to anything bookish. It's been blurbed by Paul Auster which just makes it even better. From what I can gather this follows a young poet and his exploration of art.

I Was Told There'd Be Cake - Sloane Crosley (Riverhead Books, 2008)
Another Amnesty store purchase, this time something I've had my eye on for years. This is an essay collection on modern life in the city (and was totally mentioned in an episode of Gossip Girl but I swear that's not the only reason). This has been blurbed by none other than the fantastic author of the next book I picked up...

You Don't Love Me Yet - Jonathan Lethem (Faber & Faber, 2007)
I love Jonathan Lethem. I wrote an essay for the Contemporary US Fiction module of my MA on his use of genre, comparing it to that of Thomas Pynchon and Paul Auster (mentioned above in this creepily self-referential blog post), and I ended up reading so much of his non-fiction work alongside Motherless Brooklyn. Now, You Don't Love Me Yet has absolutely terrible reviews on Goodreads, but I guess everyone fucks up at some point. The protagonist of this novel works on an art installation that takes the form of a 'complaints line' where she listens to the problems of callers, and she, of course, falls in love with one of them. I just want to read all of the Lethem under the sun.

Psyche Unbound - Heather Buck (Anvil Press Poetry, 1995)
Probably the purchase in this haul with the least reasoning behind it. I've been really enjoying poetry recently, and this collection caught my eye. I can't find much online about the poet herself so who knows what it's going to be like.

The Beats - ed. Park Honan (J.M. Dent, 1987)
This was the only book not picked up after work from the Amnesty store, but in London during a very hungover visit with my mum. I can't turn down anything related to Beat Poetry, so when I saw this in the window of a secondhand bookshop I knew I needed to crawl into that display and grab it. Which is exactly what I did. I then chatted to the shopkeeper about the new £5, because what else is there to talk to people in retail about at the moment?

M x


2017 Releases to Get Excited About

2:59 pm

We have reached October which means one thing: thinking about next year already despite there being a crap-tonne of things still to do. Here are some of the books coming out in 2017 that I'm already very excited about:

Month Unannounced

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body - Roxane Gay (2017, HarperCollins)
Gay's second publication, this time a memoir on her relationship with her body image and food. The release date for this one keeps shifting around, with Roxane starting to write it in 2014 with a 2016 release in mind. Now it's set for some time next year.

January - March 2017

Universal Harvester - John Darnielle (February 2017, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
I loved Darnielle's debut, Wolf in White Van, so am over the moon that he has another book coming out in the next six months. This one sounds equally as mind-bending and creepy: mysterious footage starts appearing on VHS tapes at the local video store. I love how Darnielle used a retro play-by-post game in Wolf so happy to see another form of 90s media being used.

Wires and Nerve, Volume One - Marissa Meyer (January 2017, Feiwel & Friends)
Praise Meyer for continuing on with the Lunar Chronicles by adding a graphic novel series to the mix. This will focus on android Iko and feature all of our favourite characters from before. I cannot wait.

Caraval - Stephanie Garber (January 2017, Hodder & Stoughton)
A new Young Adult duology centering around Scarlett, a young woman trying to find her sister after she disappears at the mysterious Caraval, a once-in-a-year performance where the audience participates.

Carve the Mark - Veronica Roth (January 2017, HarperCollins)
Duology number two. From the author of Divergent we are presented with a violent planet where everyone is born with a specific gift, some better than others. Akos and Cyra both have gifts that can destroy one another and through events they must work together in order to survive. Drama drama drama.

Witch - Lisa Lister (March 2017, Hay House UK)
I've basically read everything Lisa has written. This will be no exception. In Witch, she gives a history of witchcraft and leads us through to its modern iterations. She is a wonderfully warm and wise woman, and I can't wait to hear more about this release.

April - June 2017

Flame in the Mist - Renee Ahdieh (May 2017, G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers)
The first release in a new Young Adult series set in rural Japan. Mariko is an alchemist and the daughter of a prominent samurai, but is unable to follow to follow in his footsteps because she's a woman. She dresses as a boy and enters into the Black Clan. Obvious Mulan vibes here. What's not to love?

Release - Patrick Ness (May 2017, Walker Books)
Prepare yourself for the greatest book description you'll ever read. 'Inspired by Mrs Dalloway and Judy Bloom's Forever'. Need I say more?

Spindle Fire - Lexa Hillyer (April 2017, HarperCollins)
As if I could ever turn down a fairytale retelling. This time it's Sleeping Beauty. There's bloodshed, evil faeries, and obviously a whole lot of sleep. Recommended for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Sarah J. Maas.

M x