Do Writers Fetishize Their Tools Too Much… Or Not Enough?

Apr 21, 2023
Dimitris Passas

NOTE: This article is a republication- Source: Literary Hub (by Tobias Carroll).

I was drinking a cup of coffee in a Vancouver hotel lobby earlier this year when I heard a few of my fellow guests talking about the Moleskine store display elsewhere in the room. One of them didn’t seem entirely convinced that it was real. “Is this a front?” she asked her traveling companion. Elsewhere in the room, I thought of my time spent in Moleskine stores in New York City, looking through racks and shelves featuring notebooks, writing implements, and other devices central to the craft of writing.

I didn’t leap to my feet and shout, “It’s no front!” because that would have been creepy and wildly inappropriate. But I definitely thought about their comments long after they left the space. Writers have an interesting relationship with their tools and implements.

On the desk in front of me is a mug filled with pens (and a few pencils) of different makes and models, only about half of which I enjoy writing with. Three feet to my right is an array of as-yet-unused Field Notes notebooks; I’ve been a subscriber for a few years now, and once wrote an article exploring how the company goes about creating a new design.

And whether you’re a writer yourself or simply interested in their lives and works, specific destinations inspired by the craft of writing have become more widespread. Institutions like the Morgan Library will periodically feature exhibits of the ephemera of writers—including a 2011 show of writers’ diaries. The Tate Modern show Surrealism Beyond Borders featured poet Ted Joans’s Long Distance, a massive and bound exquisite corpse drawing that featured contributions from a host of writers, musicians, and artists. In this particular case, the work was still being contributed to over a year after Joans’s death in 2003.

There’s even a growing aspect of literary trappings to boutique travel. Brooklyn’s Wythe Hotel, for instance, sells a notebook produced in collaboration with Public Supply. And earlier this year, Montblanc Haus opened in Hamburg, Germany. The space is currently home to a permanent exhibition focusing on the handwriting of celebrities across the ages, as well as a temporary exhibition that spotlights patrons of the arts.

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