From a 1940s typewriter in a bookstore in Ann Arbor comes the thoughts of multiple generations, captured in the book Notes from a Public Typewriter, compiled by store owner Michael Gustafson of the Literati Bookstore. Gustafson will share his inspiration for the book and the unique way he captured the insightful, silly and often emotional thoughts of patrons on an old manual typewriter at the Pageturners Book Club ”Meet the Author” event Monday, March 25.
Gustafson and his wife, Hilary, put out a typewriter in their Literati Bookstore for anyone to use back in 2013, not sure what they would get. He would read the notes at the end of each business day (which averaged one or two during the week and up to four or more on Saturdays) and save them in a file cabinet. By 2017 he had saved more than 1000 notes on 100 plus pages and decided to work with designer Oliver Uberti to compile some of his favorites into a book. But picking his favorites wasn’t easy.
“We reviewed all of the notes and then put them into various categories,” he said. “Then we each ranked them and eventually came up with our favorite 300 or so for the book.”
The notes range from the bookstore patrons childhood memories, struggles with sobriety, consternation about going to middle school, advice for college graduates, and emotional stories about a lost pet or loved ones who are not around to celebrate the holidays.
Gustafson said all of the 1000 or so notes he compiled were anonymous, but some of that anonymity has changed since publishing the book.
“I really didn’t want to know who wrote these notes, but I have had many people tell me about their particular note in the book, including many people I know very well,” he said.
Today, Gustafson said an old typewriter still is available in his bookstore to continue to capture the stories of his patrons, but it isn’t the same typewriter that was first put out back in 2013.
“We have gone through about 15 old manual typewriters since we started, and fortunately we have a few thrift stores in the area where we can find replacements,” he said. “We have even had customers who find an old typewriter in their attic and give them to us because they know we will put it to good use.”
“This has just been a wonderful sort of diary of a town, happening in a bookstore.”
The Meet the Author event will begin at 11:45 a.m. Monday, March 25 in Room 550 of the VisTaTech Center. The Pageturners Book Club will also hold a discussion of the Notes from a Public Typewriter book on Tuesday, March 26 at 1:30 p.m. in Room 130 of the Liberal Arts building. For more information, call 734- 462-7191 or email firstname.lastname@example.org