Mr. Whelchel doesn’t tend to use the pens for daily correspondence. “More like notebooks,” he said.
“You write me cards!” Ms. DeKraker said. “But yeah, it’s not ‘Dear Margaret, a strong wind blew in over the hills today. …’”
Mr. Whelchel is an engineer at Google, and he likes the pens’ through-line to the previous implications of that job title: building bridges, drawing plans on paper. With the same familiar irony that applies across the recent analog revivalism, the engine that was killing the fountain pen (and the pen store) as a necessity has resurrected it as a pure pleasure and a novel way to display personal style.
The “disruption” of the fountain-pen market provides a soothing escape from all the others: Amazon’s unnerving dominion, Facebook’s alleged tainting of democracy itself, and childhood’s fast fade into screens.
“People describe drawing ink into their pen from an ink bottle and wiping the nib as a Zenlike experience,” said Stephen Brown, 34, a cognitive psychologist from the Netherlands who teaches at a community college in Red Deer, Alberta.
His YouTube channel, SBREBrown, on which he reviews pens, has 45,000 subscribers. (“I didn’t expect this,” Mr. Brown said. “Yes, some channels have millions, but I’m not telling people how to create a smoky eye!”) There’s little friction writing with a fountain pen; unlike a ballpoint or roller ball, the mechanism is essentially a controlled ink leak. Hands don’t cramp. Thoughts promise to pour out easily.
“People are also reading studies coming out indicating that writing things down helps you remember,” said Jane Andreasen, 27, a pen nerd with a Mia Farrow crop and Fury Road boots. “It’s an easy step to go from, ‘I want to write more to, ‘and now I have a fountain pen,’ to ‘now I have five, what happened to me?’” Ms. Andreasen is the resident fountain-pen expert at the happening Oakland, Calif., outpost of Flax Art & Design, an art supply store.