It was one of the first articles in the Magazine's new segment, "Letter of Recommendation": a hearty paean to the Uni-Ball Signo UM-151.
I use a pen a lot, considering. When I attend shiurim, I take notes or else my attention wanders, and recently, under the encouragement of TooYoungTooTeach, I've been toting around a notebook for jotting down ideas when inspiration strikes.
As any former student knows, the ease from which the ink is released from the pen is very important. Too little, scribbling is a struggle that leaves the wrist achy, and precious information is lost in the lag; too much, the paper is blotted with puddles of black, leaching to the other side.
Apparently, I have to go Japanese.
From time to time I pass Kinokuniya (the bookstore mentioned in the article). After purchasing my experimental pen online through Ebay by way of Asia, I happened to be strolling by the bookstore, so I popped in. I wandered into the basement, where the above article was triumphantly taped to the display.
As Vanderbilt states, "the variety is staggering." It took me a while to pinpoint the one he advocated (0.38 mm tip).
For me, the pen’s virtues are multifarious. The cost is such that I do not mind if I lose it (almost inevitably, I will). Aesthetically, there is the sleek silhouette, the smooth barrel, the graceful link of the arcing clip to the gentle curving cap; viewed on its side, the pen perfectly evokes a Shinkansen bullet train. I love the way the silver conical tip sits visible through its clear plastic housing, like a rocket waiting to be deployed. I love the small black rubber grip, with its pairs of dimples, arranged in a pattern whose logic evades but intrigues me. The pen slides discreetly into a pocket, and like a sinuous dagger it just feels meant to be held.
I often make notes in between lines on drafts, so I write in a small script. And yet, as I already find the act of handwriting so taxing — using a standard ballpoint feels to me like shoveling dirt — I need this to be as effortless as possible. The Signo, for me, hits the perfect balance between surgical accuracy and lubricating ink flow; there’s enough ink to help the pen glide smoothly along the page with grace, but not so much that, as I’m a lefty, it smudges.
After this article upended my writing life, I attempted to research pens in general, including the other options at the end of the article. But it became quite exhausting, and I don't require perfection; "good enough" suffices.
And boy, they are great.