Monday, 3 December 2018

Jars of pencils in Breakfast at Tiffany's


I am always drawn back to places where I have lived, the houses and their neighborhoods. For instance, there is a brownstone in the East Seventies where, during the early years of the war, I had my first New York apartment. It was one room crowded with attic furniture, a sofa and fat chairs upholstered in that itchy, particular red velvet that one associates with hot days on a train. The walls were stucco, and a color rather like tobacco-spit. ... The single window looked out on a fire escape. Even so, my spirits heightened whenever I felt in my pocket the key to this apartment; with all its gloom, it still was a place of my own, the first, and my books were there, and jars of pencils to sharpen, everything I needed, so I felt, to become the writer I wanted to be.

Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany's, 1958

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Pencil rain



It was a gloomy afternoon early in March and only a few degrees above zero -  always more uncomfortable than ten degrees below. Very few people were out on the streets. Rain like grey pencil shavings.







Mark Zusak, The Book Thief, 2005.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Handful of Pencils



If the summer of 1941 was walling up around the likes of Rudy and Liesel, it was writing and painting itself into the life of Max Vandenburg. In his loneliest moments in the basement, the words started piling up around him. The visions began to pour and fall and occasionally limp from out of his hands.
He had what he called just a small ration of tools:A painted book.A handful of pencils.A mindful of thoughts.Like a simple puzzle, he put them together.

Markus Zusak, The Book Thief, 2005.

Monday, 3 September 2018

Treasured Pencil in Austen's Emma

"Here," resumed Harriet, turning to her box again, "here is something still more valuable - I mean that has been more valuable - because this is what did really once belong to him...

Emma was quite eager to see this superior treasure. It was the end of an old pencil, the part without any lead.

"This was really his," said Harriet. "Do you remember one morning? - no, I dare say you do not. But one morning - I forget exactly the day - but perhaps it was the Tuesday or Wednesday before that evening,  he wanted to make a memorandum in his pocket-book; it was about spruce-beer. Mr Kightley had been telling him something about brewing spruce-beer, and he wanted to put it down; but when he took out his pencil, there was so little lead that he soon cut it all away, and it would not do, so you lent him another, and this was left upon the table as good for nothing. But I kept my eye on it, and, as soon as I dared, caught it up, and never parted with it again from that moment."

Jane Austen, Emma, 1815

Friday, 3 August 2018

Jane Eyre's soft black pencil




One morning I fell to sketching a face: what sort of face it was to be, I did not care or know. I took a soft black pencil, gave it a broad point, and worked away. Soon I had traced on the paper a broad and prominent forehead and a square lower outline of a visage: that contour gave pleasure; my fingers proceeded actively to fill it with features.


Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre, 1847

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

a refuge in Wide Sargasso Sea



"That door leads into your dressing room."I shut it gently after me.It seemed crowded after the emptiness of the rest of the house.  There was a carpet, the only one I had seen, a press made of some beautiful wood I did not recognize. Under the open window a small writing-desk with paper, pens, and ink. "A refuge" I was thinking ...


Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea, 1966

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Ink under the fingernail




My mother's too practical to be submerged. ... Objects. ... She goes into people's houses and examines all the objects and knows where they got have of them and tells them where they could have got them for less. And clothing. Each object of clothing. Same thing. Practicality. Thrifty. Extremely thrifty. Clean. Extremely clean. She'll notice, when I come home from school, if I have one bit of ink under one fingernail from filling a fountain pen.


Philip Roth, The Human Stain, 2000.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Red wine and ink



What efforts are made to keep the truth from these places, but it comes back again and again, to grieve for everybody. Drinking is no help, red wine as thick as ink, nothing helps the sky in those places never changes, it's a vast lake of suburban smoke, shutting them in.

Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Journey to the End of Night, first published in French in 1932

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Run Rabbit ballpoints




His blurred eyes sink and he touches the pocket of his shirt, which holds two ballpoint pens and a little soiled packet of cards and papers. Just in these few years his father has been making little bundles of things, cards and lists and receipts and tiny calendars that he wraps rubber bands around and tucks into different pockets with an elderly fussiness.

John Updike, Run Rabbit, 1960

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Jealousy erasing

The paper is much thinner nevertheless; it has become more translucid, uneven, a little downy. The same razor blad, bent between two fingers to raise the centre of its cutting edge, also serves to shave off the fluff the eraser has made. The back of a fingernail finally smoothes down the last roughness.

In broad daylight, a closer inspection of the pale-blue sheet reveals that two short pen strokes have resisted everything, doubtless because they were made too heavily. Unless a new word, skilfull arranged to cover up these two unnecessary strokes, replaces the old one on the page, the traces of black ink will still be visible there. Unless the eraser is used once again.
It stands out clearly against the dark wood of the desk, as does the razor blade, and the foot of the foot of the mother-of-pearl-inlaid frame where A... is about to set down her glass on the round table with its many perforations. The eraser is a thin pink disc whose central part is covered by a little tin-plate circle. 

Alain Robbe-Grillet, Jealousy, 1957 

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Jealousy Pen



She turns towards the light now in order to continue reading without straining her eyes. Her inclined profile does not move any more. The paper is pale-blue, the size of ordinary letter paper, and shows the creases where it had been folded into quarters. Then, holding the letter in one hand, A... closes the drawer, moves towards the little work table ... and sits down in front of the writing case, from which she removes a sheet of pale-blue paper - similar to the first, but blank. She unscrews the cap of her pen, then, after a glance to the right ... bends her head towards the writing case in order to begin writing.




Alain Robbe-Grillet, Jealousy, 1957 

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Pen for Mr Biswas





Moti did not belong to the village. He was a small worried-looking man with grey hair and bad teeth. He was dressed in a dingy clerkish way. His dirty shirt sat neatly on him and the creases on his trousers could just be seen. In his shirt pocket he carried a fountain pen, a stunted pencil and pieces of soiled paper, the equipment and badge of the rural literate.

At Hanuman House they were three children among many; at Ajodha's there were no other children. ... At Prasad's they were again the only children and lived in a mud hut, which they thought quaint: it was like a large doll's house. Prasad didn't give money, but a thick red exercise book, a Shirley Temple fountain pen and a bottle of Waterman's ink.

The examination was on a Saturday. ... He was given Mr Biswas's pen, in case his own should fail. He was given a large new bottle of ink, in case the examiners didn't provide enough. He was given many blotters, many Sentinel pencils, a pencil sharpener, a ruler, and two erasers, one for pencil, one for ink. He said, "Anybody would believe I am going to this place to get married."
The pen Mr Biswas has lent him, just in case, had leaked in his shirt pocket and left a large wet stain: it was though his heart had bled ink. His hair was disordered, his lips black and moustached with ink, his cheeks and forehead smudged. His face was drawn; he looked dejected, exhausted and irritable. ... "Here. Take back your pen."Mr Biswas took back his pen. It dripped with ink.

V.S. Naipaul, A House for Mr Biswas, 1961