When Michael Gustafson was a child, he was always drawn to his grandfather’s 1930s Smith Corona typewriter. It was always on his grandfather’s desk but her grandmother later decided to hand it down it to him when he was an aspiring writer.
Working on his prized typewriter not only gave him a feeling of connection with his late grandfather, but it also helped him enjoy writing again.
Michael and his wife Mary left their New York City jobs on the spring of 2013 to open a bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ann Arbor is a city well known for its vivacious book culture and independent bookshops. In fact, there were more than twenty bookshops that operated in the city in the 1980s. The national bookseller Borders also opened its first store in Ann Arbor in 1971 and operated in the city for four decades.
Because of the Borders’ shutdown in 2011, family and friends were apprehensive of the couple’s decision to build Literati Bookstore. But the book-loving couple was not to be deterred for it was one of their long-time dreams to put up an independent bookstore that was community-minded.
Literati’s logo highlights a single typewriter and the Smith Corona owned by Gustafson’s grandfather proudly sits on the store’s cash register. A light blue portable mechanical typewriter, an Olivera Lettera 32 model, is displayed on the lower level of the shop. A clean white sheet of paper was inserted in the typewriter, seemingly waiting for its author. Gustafson said they were unsure if people knew how to use it, but when they were wrapping up their first day, they saw the words “Thank you for being here” typewritten on the paper.
From then on, Literati became known for their public typewriter. It has met diverse authors who wrote for varying reasons – to profess love, ask for forgiveness, admit their fears, tease, and even to preach. Some of the finest notes are put up on the shop and on the bookstore’s social media account.
The short book “Notes from a Public Typewriter”, beautifully designed by Oliver Uberti, features the anonymous notes that were collected from Literati’s “public typewriter” experiment. The notes range from the most common messages to the most abstract philosophies in life. The book brilliantly captures the imperfect beauty of the era of the mechanical keys.