Reading Essays: An Invitation

By G. Douglas Atkins | Go to book overview

Essaying and Pen Passion
Anne Fadiman as Common Reader
in “Eternal Ink”

Among the sadder and smaller pleasures of this world I count this
pleasure: the pleasure of taking up one’s pen…. I will tell you frankly
with what I am writing. I am writing with a Waterman’s Ideal Fountain
Pen…. Well then, the pen is of pure gold, a pen that runs straight
away like a willing horse, or a jolly little ship; indeed, it is a pen so
excellent that it reminds me of my subject: the pleasure of taking up
one’s pen.

―Hilaire Belloc, “On the Pleasure of Taking Up One’s Pen,”
On Nothing and Kindred Subjects

PEN PASSION IS A MIGHTY PASSION. Writers have long testified so, from Sir Walter Scott to John Grisham, Virginia Woolf to Edmund White, Roland Barthes to Barry Hannah. For some, the passion takes the form of collecting, for the lucky ones, both collecting and writing. The latter of us suppose we cannot write with anything else—certainly cannot write so well. We practically crave the pen, eagerly await the return to it in the morning, happy only when pen and person are in sync, instrument become appendage. Little I know approaches in pleasure that of a flexible nib caressing the page and issuing words and sentences, maybe even paragraphs, that seek to be worthy of that which allows them, participates in their making.

In a couple of essays published a few years ago in JAC (formerly Journal of Advanced Composition), I went so far—impassioned by my own Sailor and also my Dunhill—as to claim a connection not just between pen use

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