(Kansas City, Missouri) - For seven days in February, Tim Youd will sit at his 1950s-era, Olympia SM3 typewriter and tap away, the clatter breaking the relative hush of the Library.
The Los Angeles-based performance artist is in the midst of retyping 100 classic novels over a five-year period, using locations relevant to the authors' lives or their stories. At a desk in the Poets' Corner on the second floor of the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St.—looking over stately Kirk Hall—he will retype Mr. Bridge, the second of Evan S. Connell's two acclaimed novels about the stunted emotional life of a prosperous Kansas City family.
Youd will begin work Tuesday, February 17, 2015, and is scheduled to finish the following Monday, February 23.
It will be the 31st featured novel of his Typewriter Series, following his retyping of Connell's Mrs. Bridge at the Kansas City Art Institute's H&R Block Artspace from February 6-14. His appearance is organized by the Block Artspace.
Youd retypes each novel - 254 pages in the case of Mrs. Bridge, 369 pages of Mr. Bridge - on a single sheet of paper backed by another sheet, repeatedly running them through the carriage until every word is retyped. He employs the same model of typewriter used by the author (eliminating works before and after the typewriter age) and typically completes 5-6 pages an hour.
What emerges is a top page that's ink-blackened and worn, often reinforced on the back with tape, and a bottom sheet marked by the indentations of hundreds of thousands of keystrokes. They are framed side by side as a diptych representing the open pages of a book. Youd finishes the unique melding of performance and mixed media art by fashioning cardboard sculptures of his typewriters that can be mounted on a wall.
He began his Typewriter Project in early 2013, inspired by gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson's claim that he had retyped F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms as a young man to get a feel for authors' writing styles and for what writing a great novel was like. In tribute, Youd first typed out Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Among the works he has typed out since then are Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions and Slapstick (in Vonnegut's hometown of Indianapolis); Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff (in Lancaster, California, adjacent to Edwards Air Force Base); Elmore Leonard's Get Shorty (in Miami Beach, Florida); William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury (in Faulkner's home in Oxford, Mississippi); and A Farewell to Arms (at the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum in Piggott, Arkansas).
In July 2013, he spent 10 day typing Charles Bukowski's Post Office while sitting in the bed of a rented pickup truck parked outside the same Los Angeles post office in which Bukowski had worked as a letter filing clerk.
In Connell, Youd is spotlighting perhaps Kansas City's most accomplished author. A graduate of Southwest High School and the University of Kansas, Connell finished writing Mrs. Bridge in 1959 and Mr. Bridge a decade later. He also wrote the bestselling nonfiction account of Custer's Last Stand, Son of the Morning Star; Custer and the Little Bighorn. He died in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 2013 at age 88.
Library patrons can observe Youd as he works. Admission is free. Free parking is available in the Library District parking garage at 10th and Baltimore.