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Fountain Pens In Fiction



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From the Third Party by William Trevor, an interesting story of a meeting between husband and rival suitor in a bar.

 

"The more Boland thought about it all the more clearly he remembered Lairdman: not much difference in appearance, the same trap of a mouth, a propelling pencil and a fountain pen clipped to the pocket of his jacket."

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Jacqueline Winspear has a series of novels (10? so far ) beginning with "Maisie Dobbs." The novels are set in Britain between the world wars. Fountain pens are multiply featured in every novel, often as an implement of daily life, and sometimes to point out the social class or personality or even mood of a character. Winspear is a contemporary writer, but knows that era well.

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Every Haruki Murakami book I have read has a Mont Blanc pen in it. "The Wind Up Bird Chronicles", "1Q84" & "Kafka on the Shore".

Change is not mandatory, Survival is not required.

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It drives me crazy when the "wrong" pen is used in a movie. I swear that the fountain pen Colin Firth used in "The Kings Speech" was modern and not from the late 30's. However, one instance when the prop and set designer got it right was a Meryl Streep movie "Doubt" made in 2008. Set in 1964, she plays a very strict Catholic nun, the Principal of an elementary school. Her pen? A basic black Esterbrook "J" type. SO the right choice!

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There are quite a few inspired posts in this thread. In particular the Sherlock Holmes posts, are you perhaps an ardent Sherlockian?

If I might weigh in here I seem to recall fountain pens being mentioned in the work of another great detective story writer, one John Dickson Carr.

His books are now, I believe, all out of print however it is high time that this fantastic writer had a second renaissance.

It used to be printed on the cover of the Penguin editions that "You buy a Detective novel but you invest in a Carr".

 

Perhaps this renaissance could start on FPN.

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There are quite a few inspired posts in this thread. In particular the Sherlock Holmes posts, are you perhaps an ardent Sherlockian?

 

I am (as you correctly deduced) something of a Sherlock Holmes fan. Some years back before there were widespread ebooks I converted the 'canon' into an iSilo book for use on my PalmPilot. Given the amount of work that needed I know the books and stories very well and also have a handy set of HTML versions for occasions such as this.

 

Going more off topic, fans of crime fiction would do well to read the wonderful 'Books to die for'. This is a series of essays written by crime writers about their favourite crime stories.

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Here's a sample of Fountain Pens in Nonfiction, if that fits...I just love the descriptions, so I'm putting a link to the Google Books page here. The writer must have been a fountain pen lover. =)

 

From Chapter 5 of:

Reflections in a Glass Door: Memory and Melancholy in the Personal Writings of Natsume Soseki

Essay titled "On Fountain Pens" (starts on bottom of page 126, so scroll up to read the full text):

 

http://books.google.com/books?id=fHXUAw-IjVYC&pg=PA127&lpg=PA127&dq=maruzen+fountain+pen&source=bl&ots=xAgmhpKFGH&sig=L7KdPv1ezj2rk3OJ9oOBLjU87lw&hl=en&sa=X&ei=R8FBUtKFBvbi4AOs5oF4&ved=0CHkQ6AEwDA#v=onepage&q=maruzen%20fountain%20pen&f=false

Sheen junkie, flex nib enthusiast, and all-around lover of fountain pens...

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From Children of the Headmaster by Wiiliam Trevor

 

"The study smelt, as always, of his father's pipe tobacco and a mustiness that could not be identified. Glass paned cupboards were full of textbooks. There were supplies of chalk and geometrical instruments, globes of the world, cartridges for fountain pens, stacks of new exercise books, blotting paper, pencils."

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It's not fiction, strictly speaking, but wasn't one of the entries in Anne Frank's Diary all about her broad-nibbed fountain pen? Hang on - google coming up...

 

It's a long one and with a certain amount of nasty irony:

 

 

Dearest Kitty,

I have a good title for this chapter:

Ode to My Fountain Pen In Memoriam

My fountain pen was always one of my most prized possessions; I valued it highly, especially because it had a thick nib, and I can only write neatly with thick nibs. It has led a long and interesting fountain-pen life, which I will summarize below.

When I was nine, my fountain pen (packed in cotton wool) arrived as a 'sample of no commercial value' all the way from Aachen, where my grandmother (the kindly donor) used to live. I lay in bed with flu, while the February winds howled around our flat. This splendid fountain pen came in a red leather case, and I showed it to my girlfriends the first chance I got. Me, Anne Frank, the proud owner of a fountain pen.

When I was ten, I was allowed to take the pen to school, and to my surprise, the teacher even let me write with it. When I was eleven, however, my treasure had to be tucked away again, because my sixth-form teacher allowed us to use only school pens and ink-pots. When I was twelve, I started at the Jewish Lyceum and my fountain pen was given a new case in honour of the occasion. Not only did it have room for a pencil, it also had a zip, which was much more impressive. When I was thirteen, the fountain pen went with me to the Annexe, and together we've raced through countless diaries and compositions. I'd turned fourteen and my fountain pen was enjoying the last year of its life with me when . . .

It was just after five on Friday afternoon. I came out of my room and was about to sit down at the table to write when I was roughly pushed to one side to make room for Margot and Father, who wanted to practise their Latin. The fountain pen remained unused on the table, while its owner, sighing, was forced to make do with a very tiny corner of the table, where she began rubbing beans. That's how we remove mould from the beans and restore them to their original state. At a quarter to six I swept the floor, dumped the dirt into a newspaper, along with the rotten beans, and tossed it into the stove. A giant flame shot up, and I thought it was wonderful that the stove, which had been gasping its last breath, had made such a miraculous recovery.

All was quiet again. The Latin students had left, and I sat down at the table to pick up where I'd left off. But no matter where I looked, my fountain pen was nowhere in sight. I took another look. Margot looked, Mother looked, Father looked, Dussel looked. But it had vanished.

'Maybe it fell in the stove, along with the beans!' Margot suggested.

'No, it couldn't have!' I replied.

But that evening, when my fountain pen still hadn't turned up, we all assumed it had been burned, especially because celluloid is highly inflammable. Our darkest fears were con­firmed the next day when Father went to empty the stove and discovered the clip, used to fasten it to a pocket, among the ashes. Not a trace of the gold nib was left. 'It must have melted into stone,' Father conjectured.

I'm left with one consolation, small though it may be: my fountain pen was cremated, just as I would like to be some day.

Yours, Anne

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Remembering the excellent novel The Secret History by Donna Tartt. If I recall correctly, the charismatic classics prof. owns a number of Montblancs. One of his students buys a Montblanc of his own and is teased by the other students about it.

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In Francois Truffaut's The 400 Blows (1959), the kid in the classroom scene is taking down dictation from the teacher using a dip pen and gets ink everywhere but into the sentence on paper and rips out each ruined page after ruined page, throwing them to the floor until his notebook is empty and he suddenly has a surprised look.

 

Another Francois Truffaut film with a fountain pen, and in the same Antoine Doinel series is Love on the Run (1979), Antoine uses a FP to write his novel. I couldn't tell what model it was. The blue ink bottle looked like a Pelikan though.

Edited by v7ef44
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From The Fall of the Sparrow by Robert Hellenga

 

"He wrote slowly and carefully with his Parker Duofold fountain pen in the italic handwriting that he used to make out the place cards for the annual Phi Beta Kappa banquet and to write an occasional letter to be presented to the visiting dignitary, along with a college medallion."

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"It was as a schoolteacher that I always knew him. Wearing a suit, his shirt pocket holding a pack of cigarettes and a mechanical pencil and a fountain pen, he loomed to me as a person of eminence in town; it was this sense of height that led, perhaps to my fear that he would somehow topple."

 

from My Father on the verge of disgrace by John Updike

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"He found airmail stationery of antique design. He addressed the envelope and attached three expensive stamps to be sure of covering the French postage. He drew the old fashioned flimsy paper towards him. pushed aside the cheap Biros and took up his Collins gold pen. He filled the pen from the ink bottle. Quink black. He wrote .... "

 

from Old Filth by Jane Gardam

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"Peanuts" featured Charlie Brown's repeated frustrations with both dip pens and fountain pens. For example ...

 

http://ms.mcmaster.ca/~moylek/pub/fpn/d489049caab7bdbadb5e7880f8541749.jpg

 

http://ms.mcmaster.ca/~moylek/pub/fpn/charlie-brown-and-ink-pen.jpg

---

Kenneth Moyle

Hamilton, Ontario

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The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

 

"Four streets south of ours, I saw Omar, the son of an engineer who was a friend of Baba's. He was dribbling a soccer ball with his brother on the front lawn of their house. Omar was a pretty good guy. We'd been classmates in fourth grade, and one time he'd given me a fountain pen, the kind you had to load with a cartridge. "I heard you won, Amir," he said. "Congratulations.""

 

I remember this novel quite fondly as it was my self study English piece in the 11th grade (Junior).

“My two fingers on a typewriter have never connected with my brain. My hand on a pen does. A fountain pen, of course. Ball-point pens are only good for filling out forms on a plane.”

Graham Greene

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Viva Villa! (1934) with Wallace Berry as Poncho Villa. President Mendoza writes his last words with a feather dip pen before being executed on his desk.

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