Host Garrison Keillor answers your questions about life, love, writing, authors, and of course, A Prairie Home Companion.
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August 2, 2003 |
I suffer from a blank notebook/book/pen fetish. All over my apartment there are books and notebooks strewn about and I can't walk out of The Strand without dropping at least $50. This is bad for several reasons. I move around a lot. When I moved to London I could only take three suitcases, two of which were crammed with books and journals and a shoebox of pens. Having such a large percentage of my luggage taken up with books/stationary made it difficult once winter came and I needed sweaters. And I simply lack the space to store all this stuff. I'm 27—I'm moving to New Zealand soon. So what do I do? Should I sell all my books on ebay and pay back my student loans and then buy more when I have a house and room for a library? Or do I keep collecting them and just deal with the fact that I'm never going to be the kind of girl who can fit her life in a backpack?
Heather A. Buettner
New York, NY
I'm happy to meet someone at last who shares my secret predilections. What you describe is all very familiar to me. If I see a stationery store, my heart jumps, and when I go in and see a whole counter of pens, I am helpless to resist. I buy about a dozen, or two. I love Pilot pens and the Sanford Uni-Ball and have tried various German and Japanese things, though I consider the Mont Blanc to be an obscene rip-off.
I also buy books, steadily, more than I can read, and when I stroll into a bookstore, particularly one of those independent ones that's run by people who share my tastes, it's hard to get out with less than a shopping bag full. And now that I'm rediscovering the pleasures of writing in longhand, I'm stocking up on legal pads, and various other paper supplies ... hmmm, graph paper, maybe this could give me a stronger sense of structure.
What to do? Well, don't strain your back, my dear. A person can handle only so much luggage. If you love to buy books, then you should also learn to love to give away books. But if you are actually using the pens to write on the paper, then buying them isn't a fetish. It's simply the sensible pleasure of writing, including the sensuous feel of a lovely pen in the hand and the point against the paper. A person can take a lifetime of pleasure in this. You pick up a sheet of handsome paper and your favorite pen and pick up a book to use for a writing desk and hold it on your knees and proceed to improve the page with a few paragraphs and thus you leave your mark. A noble enterprise, nothing to be sheepish about.