Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Pens and pencils in Don De Lillo's Underworld

The desk at the end of the room was out of the thirties in a way, equipped with items fashioned to Edgar's specifications. Two nibbed black pens. Two bottles of Skrip Permanent Royal Blue Ink , No. 52. Six sharpened Eberhard Faber pencils, No. 2. A pair of 5x8 linen-finish writing pads, white. A new 60-watt bulb in the standing lamp. 

[Sister] did penmanship instead, demonstrating on the blackboard the cursive flair of her own hand. She showed the slant, the loop, she stressed the need to stay between the ruled lines, she told them to take their fountain pens and follow the motions she made in the air, and they did, working the wrists, looping in unison, and they shaped a tempestuous capital T that resembled a rowboat in a rainstorm.       Matty sat there nearly spellbound, writing in the air with his brother's old Parker vacumatic, a streaked green model with an arrow clip. 

...and there is the kid with ink on his tongue, there is always a kid with an inky tongue. Waterman's blue-black. What does he do, drink the stuff? 

...because she felt stirrings of information in the dusty corridors of the convent or the school's supply room that smelled of pencil wood and composition books... 

...and you look at the things in the room, offscreen, unwebbed, the tissued grain of the deskwood alive in light, the thick lived tenor of things, the argument of things to be seen and eaten, the apple core going sepia in the lunch tray, and the dense measures of experience in a random glance...the chipped rim of the mug that holds your yellow pencils, skewed all crazy, and the plied lives of the simplest surface, the slabbed butter melting on the crumbled bun, and the yellow of the yellow of the pencils, and you try to imagine the word on the screen becoming a thing in the world... 

Don DeLillo, Underworld, Macmillan: 1998, pp. 560, 718, 776, 250, 827.

1 comment:

  1. thanks for this quote

    will keep it in my notebook

    found two vintage ink pots a few weeks ago in a shop on Cartier street, corner of aberdeen, in Quebec City : a Waterman Patrician Purple, made in Montreal more than fifty years ago, and a Carter's Midnight Blue Black, both never opened. I'll have to take a photo some time in the future.