Tom Writes a Letter.

It’s no secret that John Steinbeck was one serious pencil user. Still, reading East of Eden recently, I found this passage about writing letters in pencil remarkable:

Tom opened the drawer and saw a tablet of Crane’s Linen Lawn and a package of envelopes to match and two gnawed and crippled pencils and in the dust[y]* corner at the back a few stamps. He laid out the tablet and sharpened the pencils with his pocketknife. [406]

There are several detailed pencil references, but another sticks out:

The writing stopped there. There was a scratch on the page and a splash of ink, and then it went on in pencil, but the writing was different. In pencil it said, “Later. Well, right there the pen give out. One of the points broke right off… “[34-5]

*(My centennial edition has quite a few typos, and I assume that’s one, too. Steinbeck, John. East of Eden. New York: Penguin Books, 2002.)

Letters from Lauren.

I hope that Lauren doesn’t mind us stealing her photo, but I have to share this really cool website, wherein Lauren writes a letter a day in 2011.  I was lucky enough to be on the receiving end last week, and, well, it’s just nice to get a letter in the mail these days — written in pencil, no less — addressed to you as a person and not a prospective client/customer.

What’s more, Lauren features lovely photos and letters on her blog, which we can all enjoy. Thanks very much to Lauren, who shares my affection for the USA version of the Dixon Ticonderoga “Black”!

[Image, LfL.]

The Letter Writers Alliance.

We like pencils.  Might it not be safe to assume we have strong feelings for paper also?  For reading perhaps?  Even…writing?  If, like me, you enjoy writing, sending, receiving and reading letters, you might enjoy the Letter Writers Alliance.  You can even join up and score a pin, membership card and access to free downloads of stationery and other cool stuff.  And, yes; they have LWA pencils!

This might bring up the question of whether or not one can mail a letter or parcel addressed in pencil.  (Or maybe not.)  Yes.  I assumed it was impossible until I received a rare book in the mail a few years ago in graduate school, addressed with pencil from my hometown, coincidentally.  To boot, D from LWA and I exchanged two letters addressed, and composed, in pencil.  [The mail and legal papers and pencils might be an excellent post topic, when I get more time for research.]

I’m paranoid enough to use No Blot ink pencils on the envelopes, but these are out of production, and I only have a dozen left.  They seem to work, though!