Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Enchanted Typewriter  -  1899
John Kendrick Bangs
71 pages
genre  -  Bangsian Fantasy
my rating  -  4 out of 5 stars

One morning the narrator (we never learn his name; I shall call him Mr. N) unearths an old 1870's type-writing apparatus from his attic. Mr. N has a wonderful time taking it apart and putting it back together. It receives a new ribbon and all the ink it can consume.

Several days later, Mr. N comes home from a night out and hears something that sounds like a click coming from the library. Here I quote one of my favorite lines from the book: "A man does not like to hear a click he cannot comprehend..." Mr. N assumes it is the click from a burglar's revolver.

It turns out that Mr. N has a very unusual typewriter and James Boswell, the editor of the Stygian Gazette, likes to use it to prepare the Sunday edition of the Gazette. Through Boswell we get to hear all about the goings-on in Hades. It makes for a very entertaining story!

This story is actually the 3rd in a series.
A House-Boat on the Styx (1895)
Pursuit of the House-Boat (1897)
The Enchanted Type-Writer (1899)
Mr. Munchausen: Being a True Account of Some of the Recent Adventures Beyond the Styx of the Late Hieronymus Carl Friedrich, Sometime Baron Munchausen of Bodenwerder (1901)

About the genre classification: Bangsian fantasy is described as "a fantasy of the afterlife in which the ghosts of various famous men and women come together and have various, usually genial, adventures" (Jess Nevins as quoted on Wikipedia).  Bangs is not the first to have written this style of fantasy, but his novellas gave it publicity.

About the author  -

John Kendrick Bangs was born in Yonkers, New York.  He went to Columbia University where he became editor of Columbia's literary magazine and contributed short anonymous pieces to humor magazines.  Bangs was an editor of Life magazine.  He also worked at Harper's Magazine, Harper's Bazaar and Harper's Young People.  Bangs was the first editor of Munsey's Magazine.  In 1904 he was appointed editor of Puck, perhaps the foremost American humor magazine of its day.

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