Peanuts à la David Foster Wallace
“‘Help!’ she cried.”
Let’s put aside for the moment two interesting questions: how it is that this dog can type and, assuming that we can satisfactorily establish how, from whom did he learn to type? The more urgent question is this: what model typewriter is he using? A Smith-Corona, you may be thinking. An Olympia, an Olivetti, a Royal. My bet was on an Underwood, though I confess to a secret hope that it might be a Remington.
In fact it is a Hermes,¹ which the dog bought from the estate of Jack Kerouac,² model number 3337316, 13 inches long, 12½ wide, 5¾ high. It’s rumored he outbid Larry McMurtry to acquire it, and that McMurtry subsequently went into a deep decline.
When he was interviewed about the machine, Snoopy indicated that it appeared to have acquired at some point an almost Gallic sense of irony.³ In addition to the Incident of the Exclamation Point, as he was later to call it, this Hermes 3000 once printed “Lewdwig van Bleathoven” in his review of a concert by the Round-Headed Kid’s friend Schroeder.
¹The Hermes was created by the Switzerland-based Paillard Company, which started out making music boxes in the early 19th c. By 1900, the firm had moved on to radios and record players; by 1920, typewriters were rolling out of the factory at Yverdon. They were dubbed Hermes, after the Greek mythological character who served as messenger to the gods. Paillard’s first portable typewriter, the Hermes 2000, was launched in 1933, followed by the Hermes Baby in 1935. Then came a succession of Hermes models. Among them were the Hermes Media in 1936; Hermes 2000 in 1939, featuring the first automatic margins; the Hermes Baby Jubilee in 1940; and, in 1958, the Hermes 3000.
²Kerouac used it from 1966 until his death in 1969. He announced its arrival to his agent in a letter dated 29 August 1966: “How do you like my new typewriter?” The new machine “was necessary,” he explains with a sadly typical incoherence, “as the old one broke in two, but, and that’s what broke my budget, and now it’ll be taxes.” The agent subsequently received many letters from this long-suffering machine about Kerouac’s money problems: “Where are the ROAD royalties to 6/30/66,” he asks on 18 January 1967, “and same royalties (6/30/66) for SUR… Great time of stress. Need money to fence-in magnificent part wooded yard.” He also hoped to build a study “where I’ll be writing VANITY OF DULUOZ in month of March after Greek Orthodox Church wedding in February” (i.e., to Stella Sampas).
³Records indicate that this typewriter had to make a visit to the repairman in January 1969. The repairman’s receipt for $22.83 diagnoses the problem as follows: “Tendency toward irony, developed perhaps as defense mechanism against owner’s prose style.”
*I freely admit to a bit of Internet plagiarism here, especially from the website of Christie’s and a Chicago Tribune article by Julia Keller.