A Pen Mighty Enough for Rushdie

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Published May 17, 2010

It’s safe to say pen is still mightier than the sword. And with the launch of the DBA 98, now it’s more eco-friendly, too. 98 artists, writers, musicians and designers created their own sketches, drawings and stories using the DBA 98 (98% biodegradable) pen and Endless Notebook made from 100% recycled materials, which were on display at the Standard for an silent auction on Friday night hosted by André Balazs, Salman Rushdie, Matthew Modine and Brooke Geahan to benefit Riverkeeper. We caught up with Rushdie, whose work (“My shit detector doesn’t work when I’m writing with a pen,” he’d scrawled on the notebook) got one of the highest bids of the night, along with Dan Colen, Ruben & Isabel Toledo, Aaron Young and Marchesa, and Jenny Holzer (who topped out at $4,000). (LEFT: MATTHEW MODINE AND BROOKE GEAHAN/PATRICK MCMULLAN)

HOFFMAN: What was it like working on this project?

RUSHDIE: The strange thing is, I’d been asked to write with a pen, which is what I don’t do. I do a lot of my notes in a pen. But I can’t actually write with a pen. The trouble is, when it’s in my own handwriting, I don’t know if it’s good or not. My handwriting gets in the way. This isn’t actually my phrase, it’s Ernest Hemingway’s phrase. Hemingway said, “The most important gift a writer needs is a fully functioning shit detector.” You have to know when it’s shit. My problem is I can do that when I type, but I can’t do it when it’s in my handwriting. I don’t even know if that’s any good. [Points to his piece]

HOFFMAN: Do you collect pens?

RUSHDIE: I have, as many writers do, a collection of very beautiful old fountain pens. I have eight or nine really lovely, old pens, some of which were gifts, some of which I found in second hand stores. It’s also true, when you write with a really beautiful fountain pen, your handwriting gets better. So when I write with a ballpoint, like this, my handwriting is crap. But with a really beautiful pen, my handwriting’s not bad. I give it all up to the pen. I love pens.

HOFFMAN: What kinds do you have?

RUSHDIE: Vintage Parkers, old Scheaffers and Montblancs. And some very limited edition Swiss ones. Once I met a guy, a French guy, who made some very exclusive brands of pens–so exclusive that his name is nowhere on the pen. And he, out of his pocket–his own pen, which had, by coincidence, my initials on it (which were the same as his initials) engraved it in–and he gave it to me, and left, and I don’t know the make of the pen is because he never told me. But it’s actually very exclusive and it’s really beautiful.

HOFFMAN: Do you think you’ll use the DBA 98 Pen?

RUSDHIE: I lose a hundred pens a week, so this is actually completely designed for someone like me. I go and buy 50 from Staples and a week later I don’t know where they are.

HOFFMAN: Not biodegrading!

RUSHDIE. Yes, so these will be very useful.

The DBA pen is available for sale at the Shop at Cooper-Hewitt, Project No. 8a at the Ace Hotel and www.dba-co.com.