Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Few Words on Pen-Bereavement

Penfriend in the Burlington Arcade

"Pen-bereavement is a serious matter." -- Anne Fadiman

I know how she feels. The above quote is from Fadiman's essay in Ex Libris entitled "Eternal Ink". She writes that her fifth-grade boyfriend gave her a fountain pen - she thinks he stole it from his stepfather. She didn't care and she cherished it.

She had the pen for years - into adulthood - and then one day it was gone. She thinks it perhaps fell through a crack in her desk and resides in some dark corner. She has never been the same. No replacement pen ever suited.

I only write with a fountain pen. I used to buy the cheap Schaeffer pens with the replacement cartridges of ink (black only, thank you very much) to write in my journal. The plastic barrels were red or yellow with a faux silver cap. When the nib began to scratch and the ink to blotch the pen was easy and inexpensive to replace.

Then on a trip to Paris and a side journey to Normandy, I strolled into a pen store in Deauville. There, I bought my first Waterman fountain pen. It had a green plastic barrel with a sort of Picasso-esque design and a top that firmly closed with a click. The nib was gold. I adored that pen and carried it with me for years, but alas, it disappeared.

I took it up a notch with my next Waterman. This one was given to me as a present (I got to pick it out) and had a marbled deep blue metal barrel and top. It also came with a lifetime guarantee. At one point the nib just plain wore out and the company replaced it. It recently had another issue with the cap and I have just not had the energy to pack it up and return it to Waterman for repairs.

Another Waterman I purchased from a tiny pen shop, the Penfriend, in the Burlington Arcade in London. It had a brown barrel and a medium nib which never really slid along the page to suit me. It too has disappeared.

Pen-bereavement for sure.

I do have a back up: a metallic blue Lamy fountain pen that I purchased in Savannah in 2010 and keep on my desk.

I discovered a few years ago that Pilot makes a disposable fountain pen, the Varsity. It costs $3.50 and I don't cry if I lose it.

I have a penchant for pens, as you can see. I also have a bejeweled dip pen and another dip pen made of blown glass from Italy. I have used them both, but the dipping and writing, dipping and writing does tend to get tedious.

In my desk are five or six dip pens that belonged to my grandfather. They each consist of a wooden barrel with the nib stuck into the end. I keep them because I like to think of him when I open that drawer and occasionally bring them out and put them on a tray with the others for display.

It somehow soothes me just to see them.

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