Michigan Notable Books author to speak at Troy Public Library

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published April 16, 2019


TROY — Ten years ago, Ann Arbor resident and bookstore owner Michael Gustafson inherited his grandfather’s 1930s Smith Corona typewriter.

“I didn’t know him that well,” Gustafson said. “When I used it, I felt connected to him.”

Gustafson said he was struck by how the typewriter produced curated, thoughtful writing: “There’s no delete key.”

When he and his wife, Hilary Gustafson, opened the Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor six years ago, they selected the typewriter as their logo, “based on the premise that the books in the store would contain curated, thoughtful writing,” he said. They set up a typewriter with blank paper in the basement and invited patrons to express their thoughts on the page.

Gustafson worked with Oliver Uberti, who designed the look of Gustafson’s new book. They both combined their favorite left-behind notes with essays and photos to create “Notes from a Public Typewriter,” published by Grand Central Publishing.

The Library of Michigan selected it as a Michigan Notable Book for 2019.

Gustafson will speak at the Troy Public Library at 7 p.m. April 30.

Anna Barlow, the adult services librarian for the Troy Public Library, explained that libraries selected as Michigan Notable Books author tour stops select five options from the list of Michigan Notable Books authors. One author is picked to speak at each library.

“All the libraries petition for the books they are most interested in,” Barlow said. She noted that the messages left on the typewriter at Gustafson’s bookstore run the gamut from marriage proposals to thoughts about struggles with addiction.

The Library of Michigan selects up to 20 notable books written by Michigan residents or about Michigan or the Great Lakes, according to the Library of Michigan website, michigan.gov/libraryofmichgan.

Gustafson said the notes left were about “love, loss and everything in between. Months and years passed. I never threw any note away. I hoarded them.”

He shared some of the messages on social media, and some of those went viral.

“The anonymous nature of the musings really resonated,” Gustafson said. “I felt a disservice to the notes, keeping them locked away.”


Putting it together
Out of hundreds of pages, he and Uberti chose 150 notes to create “Notes from a Public Typewriter.”

“Oliver and I read through each and every one. It was a fun, emotional and interesting process to go back through the notes. When you strip away the names and just focus on the words, I’m floored with how alike we all are,” Gustafson said.

“It seems we are not so different when we talk about love, loss, personal thoughts. I had the profound experience that we are not so different.”

He said they categorized the notes into various subjects to bring balance to the book, but the notes “were overwhelmingly about love, loving somebody, loving somebody not there or wanting love.”

“It’s a quick read,” he said of the book. “It’s a quote book. We wanted the quotes to flow off each other.”

Gustafson said he and Uberti will read some of their favorites at the Troy event. One of Gustafson’s favorite lighter notes is, “I wrote a letter to Santa so he doesn’t think we only talk to him when we want something.”

On the more serious end, he likes this one: “Sometimes I get lost just to assure myself someone cares enough to find me.”

What he found most surprising was that young people loved using the typewriter.

“They love to see the words snap to life.”

He said he enjoyed watching grandparents show their grandchildren how to use the manual typewriter.

“This started out humbly — with no expectations,” Gustafson said. He noted that the Literati Bookstore was chosen by Publisher’s Weekly as the Bookstore of the Year.

“I have been inspired and moved by the amount of personal sharing that has happened with this typewriter experiment. I think it will be a fun evening.”

Register for the program at troy pl.org or by calling (248) 524-3534.

The Troy Public Library is located at 510 W. Big Beaver Road.