Frank Darabont,
Walpuski's Typewriter
(Cemetery Dance, 2005)

Walpuski's Typewriter is the short, sick tale of a very bad writer, a strange repair shop and a flesh-eating typewriter. It is, as author Frank Darabont points out, a bit silly.

Darabont says up front that there was nothing cutting edge about the story even when it was first published 20 years ago. That may be a sad lost chance for humor, since cutting edge stories from 20 years ago are the old comedy of the present. But it means that, aside from the quaint idea of an electric word processor, the story holds up well today. The almost chatty tone is a welcoming wave to all those who grew up reading Stephen King and Clive Barker. There's a delicious simplicity in the plot, which doesn't rely on religious symbolism or psychological insight for its horror. In the grand tradition of B movies, Darabont doesn't require you to know anything unusual about the world to understand his plot. Just accept that unusual things can happen, horrible things, and Walpuski's mad tale explains itself.

It's a silly premise, an evil typewriter, and watching that small silly idea spin out of control fuels the story's horror. Actually seeing that idea, through detailed pencil illustrations by Bernie Wrightson, adds another layer to the joke and the fear. A typewriter with teeth should be an absurd sight, after all, but Wrightson captures the deep fundamental wrongness of the thing. He seems to take an absolute glee in illustrating the story's most graphic moments, and the plainness of pencil work gives his pictures a disturbingly documentary feel.

As silly and simple as Walpuski's Typewriter is, a determined sort could find deeper tragedy in the work. It is, after all, a tale of a writer who sacrifices everything for his dream, only to find that the sacrifice negates itself. Howard Walpuski's damnation is arguably a subtler kind than normal, a self-made hell fueled by self doubt and cowardice. Any good Puritan could find a relevant moral in the tale. A really determined critic could find all sorts of deeper symbolism.

And I'd feel sorry for them, because that's not the point. This isn't literary fiction by any means. It's a story for those of us who grew up loving Creepshow and Weird Tales and wishing EC still made horror comics. Walpusksi's Typewriter is a toothy grinning nightmare, black humor without redemption for the characters or the readers, and a lot of fun.

by Sarah Meador
3 December 2005

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