Pensieve: My Fountain Pen Addiction
My name is Susan. And I am a fountain pen addict.
My addiction began with a Lamy Safari.
Well, sort of. It actually started when I was having trouble getting motivated to write in my journal. So, I thought, “If I get a fountain pen, surely that will make me write more, because fountain pens are what real writers use!” You know, like Hemingway, even though he’s dead and fountain pens were normal when he was writing. But maybe he didn’t use a fountain pen at all. Maybe he just used a typewriter. Frankly, I don’t know what Hemingway wrote with and I don’t care because I don’t like Hemingway. But I’m sure Mark Twain wrote with a fountain pen, and so should I. I love Mark Twain.
So, after deciding I needed a fountain pen, I googled “fountain pens for beginners” and found out that Lamy Safaris were the noobie pen of choice. I went to my source of all materialistic goods: Amazon, and I found a beautiful Safari in metallic blue and bought it (fine point). It came with plastic cartridges filled with one color of ink that, if you stuck them in the pen correctly, caused the ink to flow. More than once I put the wrong end in and had to throw away the cartridge. They really need to put arrows on cartridges for idiots like me.
I must say, that Lamy Safari did get me motivated to write in my journal. For awhile. Unfortunately, it felt sort of unwieldy in my hand and after a page or so, my hand began to cramp. Plus, I hated those dratted, complex cartridges. So I searched again for the perfect fountain pen. This time, my eyes landed on the Pilot Vanishing Point, a fountain pen that you click like a ball point pen! WOW! That was a techno-geek’s dream fountain pen. I stressed over which color and which nib size, but eventually wound up with a blue carbonesque with an extra fine point. It was beautiful and quite a piece of engineering. But, it was so heavy and the pen clip was in the way of my fingers and the nib skipped more often than not. I hated that pen. (Sorry Pilot Vanishing Point lovers—don’t worry, it has a loving new home).
So the search went on. My next pen was a true-blue fountain pen (except it was green): a Pelikan M600. It was my most expensive purchase at that point (it gets worse). But this one was special. I ordered it from Richard’s Pens (a real pen dealer, unlike Amazon) and got a limited edition Green o’ Green Pelikan M600 with a fine nib. Now this was a pen I adored. It was beautiful; it wrote flawlessly; it was a piston filler (no crappy cartridges). I was happy. For awhile.
Once you get the fountain pen bug, you can’t just stop. No. What followed was a frenzy of pen buying. I learned that fine nibs weren’t all there was in the pen world. I discovered italic nibs and flex nibs. I learned that vintage pens were so much better than modern pens! So, I bought a vintage Waterman with a nice flexy nib (that I’ve never been able to fill properly, and the pen skips, and I’ve given up on it [anybody want to buy it?]). And I bought some vintage Pelikans (all of them write wonderfully).
Then I discovered Nakaya and that’s when I found my dream pen: a Nakaya Piccolo Enjoying the Moon Cat. Holy Grail!!!! Holy Hell! It cost $1000!
Somehow I convinced my beleaguered husband to let me pay for half of Moon Cat and the other half would be my Christmas present. I ordered Moon Cat with a medium italic nib and she arrived in September. I was so good. I packed her away in my office closet without opening her. She was my Christmas present and I was going to save her for Christmas. In the meantime I bought a few more Pelikans just to keep me satisfied until I opened Moon Cat.
Christmas morning came. I opened Moon Cat. She was everything I hoped she would be: a piece of art and an incredible writing instrument. I filled her with Red Dragon and wrote in my journal and practiced my penmanship and life was awesome.
The next day I decided to do a photo shoot of Moon Cat, because her beauty had to be shared. Everything went fine, until the last shot. I propped her on my grandmother’s china cabinet where the light was good and prepared to take my picture. Moon Cat rolled off, hit the tile floor, and broke. A big chunk came off the cap and a wailing came from the dining room that would have put professional Old Testament mourners to shame. My husband found the part that had broken off. With tears and snot running down my face, I took pictures of my ruined Moon Cat so I could post them on Fountain Pen Network where people would grieve with me. It was very traumatic.
Fortunately, Nakaya was able to repair Moon Cat with an ingenious string technique. It took several months, but when Moon Cat came back from Japan, she was more beautiful than ever.
You’d think, now that I had my grail pen, I wouldn’t buy more pens.
You would be wrong.
I discovered Montblancs. More importantly, I discovered vintage Montblancs with flexy italic nibs.
And there were other Nakayas that caught my eye. A Naka-ai in Heki-tamenuri with a medium right oblique midi (between an italic and a stub) with flex by John Mottishaw (WHAT A NIB!!!!):
A Housoge Shu Piccolo (fine):
And of course I had to have a Soennecken (Lady 111) (italic).
And then there was the Tiger Eye Montblanc 244 (italic) that stole my heart.
And another Grail Pen, a green-striped Montblanc 144 (stub).
And a Platinum Century 3776 in Chartres blue (extra fine). It’s my favorite grading pen, though my students don’t like it much. I wonder why?
My compulsion to buy pens was almost unstoppable. I sold camera equipment to buy pens. I sold vintage Barbies to buy pens. I sold my grandmother’s costume jewelry to buy pens. I sold pens to buy more pens. I did writing projects (and still do) to pay for pens. It really is quite an addiction, much like meth, so they say, though I’m far from being a Fountain Pen Heisenberg. I know people who have thousands of pens. They’re the dealers. I’m just a junkie.
Currently I own around thirty pens. I write with them all (obviously not all at once). I’m not a collector who buys pens and puts them on a shelf to look pretty. I want to put them to use. I try to rotate them in and out each month. But I have favorites (don’t tell) and neglected ones that need to be sold (so I can buy more pens, of course).
I love my fountain pen collection. And, I’ve managed not to buy another fountain pen for several months, so I thought, maybe, just maybe my addiction had passed.
But, alas, no. Now I want a Pilot Namiki Falcon with a soft fine nib modified for extra flex by John Mottishaw. Why? I really can’t say.
But it’s calling to me.