Friday, 24 October 2014

Kingsand quicksand

Does it matter if Conway Stewart's Kingsand ink is a lighter or darker shade of brown? Is the world going to be a better place if Kingsand flows well or if its viscosity is not satisfactory? Do we need to really care about the quality of its shading? Such existential problems tormented the author of Palimpsest as she peered into the depths of the ink bottle. She supposed that the Earth will continue to revolve around itself if said ink is found to be more or less saturated or if it bled or not on to ordinary paper. The sun will still shine tomorrow. People will still be engaged in terminating each other lives in various violent ways. Of course this critique can be directed to most human pursuits. But such is the nature of falling into the quicksand of doubt about one's content production. 

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Conversations with writing tools

An extension of the self? A writer's aid? A depository of wisdom? "Our writing equipment", Nietzsche has said, " takes part in the forming of our thoughts." Writers have been known to be preoccupied with the type of writing instruments they use (Steinbeck searched for the perfect pencil, Kipling had to have a Waverley nib, Truman Capote alternated between pencil and typewriter, Proust used "plain and pointed" Sergent-Major nibsNabokov went for Ticonderogas), or they may be particular about the choice of ink (Dickens preferred blue, Roland Barthes revelled in coloured inks, Faulkner filled his fountain pen with a succession of inks without cleaning it first, Kipling loved Indian ink). 

Does the choice of writing equipment (the medium) influences writing style? There is a debate on the influence of inscription technologies on the development of human thinking (the "medium theory"). Goethe, for instance, declared that when inspiration came to him (usually at night) he found that he could write more readily with a pencil rather than with a pen as "the scratching and splattering of the pen" would cause confusion and "stifle a little inception in its birth". Nietzsche's writing style is said to be "tighter and more telegraphic" during the time he used the writing ball.

The ongoing conversation between writer and writing instrument is nowhere more vocal as in the instances when the writing tool itself becomes an entity:

Back in the 16th century Erasmus' calamus introduces itself as "the little reed pen" which has written so many large volumes by itself, guided however by the hand of its master. The reed pen boasts to have been preserved by Erasmus as sacred to the Muses and dedicated to Apollo but although it has produced so many immortal words, it is doomed to perish in obscurity. Lord Byron addresses his grey goose-quill as Nature's noblest gift, the author's pride, a slave to his thoughts, and obedient to his will, but it too like the reed of Erasmus before it  is condemned to be forgotten. The "honest" and "sacred" inkwell of Cavafy contains whole worlds in its ink - words that are almost mystically kept there for the poet to find and are reserved only for him as the inkwell will refuse them to any other after the poet's death.   

No mystical qualities for the pen of Seamus Heaney. It sits between his finger and his thumb, "snug as a gun" - an allusion to the "pen mightier than the sword" adage - and it is a toiling pen and a fighting pen which makes the man of letters equal to the toiler of the land: "But I've no spade to follow men like them / Between my finger and my thumb / The squat pen rests. / I'll dig with it."

Sunday, 5 October 2014

The London Writing Equipment Show 2014

The annual London Writing Equipment Show took place this year in the Holiday Inn hotel in Bloomsbury and as was the case the year before it offered the visitor a pen paradise experience. Here are a few photos Palimpsest took to mark the occasion: