Reach For Your Fountain Pens

Both Umberto Eco and Arthur Krystal have recently published columns that portend well for writers who use fountain pens. While I don’t agree that ballpoints are intrinsically without soul, style, and personality, I think that the characteristics of ballpoints (the texture of the ink, the standardized colors and points) militate against stimulating the writer’s imagination as variously as fountain pens do. Krystal mentions only in passing that “different parts of the brain are switched on by our using a pen instead of a computer — and the cognitive differences are greater than what might be expected by the application of different motor skills,” but the broader point of his essay strikes me as quite applicable, and especially so to preachers and lecturers.
Krystal’s point ought to remind those who flatly advocate one approach to preaching or another — notes or not — that different people excel in different modes of reflection and activity (cf. St Paul on “varieties of gifts”). so no one should be so ungentle as to insist that everyone prepare and preach in the same way. Practitioners stand to learn from experiencing the modes with which they’re less comfortable, but ultimately each of us do does best to lead from strength. (And some people can read aloud well from a manuscript — think of the performers who read narrative fiction aloud on programs such as NPR’s “Selected Shorts”) — and some people can’t express themselves fluently in either spontaneous oral or composed written modes.

4 thoughts on “Reach For Your Fountain Pens

  1. In Mark Helprin’s outstanding novel, Soldier of the Great War, one important character at the beginning of the story is a copyist in a law firm. He is convinced that the use of the typewriter, specifically within the field of contracts, marks the end of civilization.

    It’s one of those books everyone should read sometime prior to senility.

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