Saturday, March 06, 2010

Stationery Lust

I love Hilary Mantel's Guardian article about stationery and its relationship to our writing processes. I am so gratified by her praise for the loose leaf and the ring binder as the best media for writing novels, and her denunciation of the bound notebook, in particular the Moleskine, and its straitjacket of linearity, which I totally agree is not the way you write novels. (And I'm so glad she said it for me: 'Chatwin, Hemingway: has the earth ever held two greater posers?'). 'You must be able to loop back on yourself,' she says, 'and to be able to arrange the elements of which your story consists in an order that is entirely flexible.' And she's right: crossings out won't do: you need to be able to restore those bits you abandoned when you realize they are necessary after all.

Mantel says that 'at twilight' she starts dreaming about old-fashioned stationery: 'pink tape, for instance, that barristers use to tie up their bundles'. But I can go one better: I actually have it! (Don't ask me where to get it, someone gave it to me years ago, a huge cardboard roll of it, and I don't know where they got it.) I use it to tie up those old drafts which, you never know, I might loop back to for those bits I do need after all. And she wonders if you can still still get treasury tags. Well, I can tell her, yes you can, in Staples - or you could last time I needed them - and I use them all the time to bind plays, and yes, there's something really nice about threading those lovely dark-green strings with their sharp metals ends through the holes... Ah, stationery!
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