Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Vignettes from Vermont: The Pen and the Fiona Apple Love Letter to Her Dying Dog and the Infinity of Time and Space and Beauty of the Ink and the Heart and the Passion and the Great Beyond. And the Pen and the Pen and the Pen!

Hand-turned pens available at

BENNINGTON -- Fiona Apple postponed the South American leg of her tour and explained why in a 4-page letter about the love of her life, Janet. Janet is a 13-year-old pit bull that suffers from Addison's Disease, and Janet is going to die any day.

Fiona wrote the letter with pen and paper, unless it was pencil, but who cares if she wrote it in crayon, or blood from her pin-pricked fingertips. The point is that the deepest, most intense female musician on the planet expressed her emotions on pulp.

Seems like a lost art, writing with pen and paper.

A few weeks ago Fiddlehead at Four Corners received 15 pretty sweet hand-turned pens by an artist in Illinois, but Kulk wasn't so sure they would sell because, you know, we're tech-globs who write everything -- this included -- on computers and tablets and phones and never on paper, it seems, and when's the last time you ever sat down to write a through and through Thank You card or poured yourself into a real love letter to the person who makes your heart bounce around the room?

That's what made him appreciate this Thank You card from Jen and Jennifer after he covered their wedding at the Curbside Chapel of Love a few months ago ...

Yes, Kulk wrote those stories on a MacBook Pro. He writes 98 percent of his stuff on digitalia but that doesn't mean he's immune to pen and paper. He hasn't penned a love letter in years and may never write one again, but he rough-drafts many of these vignettes. Here's a bit of his ultra-violent scratchy-scratchy outline during Small Business Saturday ...

Kulk asked a few writers about writing with pen and paper.

Chris Kubasik created "The Booth at the End" -- probably the best Internet "TV" show to date. Season 1 is as good as writing gets, and AGD reviewed the show HERE.

"I use pen and paper for my outlines and such! (I assume that's meaningful!)" Kubasik told Kulk in a Facebook message. He then sent these photos ...

One of Kulk's favorite "sports" writers is Jeff MacGregor at ESPN. Two hundred and eighteen of his ideas are HERE, and he wrote a book about NASCAR called "Sunday Money" -- so he must do a lot of pen and paper stuff, right? Wrong.

"Going all the way back to my beginnings, I've never done anything longhand but take my notes. Was always at a keyboard, from the age of 8 or 9 forward, so forty + years. Add to this that my cursive handwriting is not exemplary," MacGregor wrote in a website message. "Worked for a variety of typewriters over the years, portables and business models and still have an Olympus manual office model which I used just last week during the blackout.

"I took up word processing and personal computers in 1987 or 1988. Having said all that, I fill my notebooks by hand with hundreds of pages of observations when working on a story, but rarely do I write anything in them that I'd consider 'writing,' if that makes sense."

Another titan of the pen and paper is Aaron Walther. Kulk remembers with great fondness those nights in Roswell when he and Tophat fueled up for flights to outer space and inked page after page after page after page with sentences in an attempt to write a story.

None of those words would qualify for the Pulitzer, bubba, but those pages exploded like supernovas. They were BOOMING! Those nights weren't about seeking fame and glory but rather sharing friendship through the process of writing.

Other nights Kulk remembers reading through Walther's ink-filled notebooks that were full of bizarro stories and the kind of heartbreaking poems that make you want to pull up a barstool and drown in cheap Kentucky bourbon. Few writers Kulk knows can bleed emotions onto pulp like Aaron Walther even though he admits to writing most of his recent stuff on the bolshy computer, including a new book that should hit the market soon.

Kulk will publish an interview with Walther soon.

If there is a female equivalent to Aaron Walther it's Fiona Apple, one of Kulk's biggest crushes since 1995. He has written about Fiona often. One night circa Winter '97 he was driving into North Bennington, just 'round that bend beyond Bennington College, and "Shadowboxer" comes on the radio, and here we go again. Shadowboxer rips AGD's heart out every time because it reminds him of the one -- "... the way you have no reverence for my concern ... " -- and Kulk was in tears that particular time.

Fiona also penned one of the great lyrics " ... you fondle my trigger then you blame my gun" in the song "Limp" ... On September 25, Kulk wrote about "Fiona Green Apple Face" (HERE). This is what Fiona's Sad and Sullen Green Apple Glass Face of Torment and Timber in Platesville, Vermont" looks like ...

Kulk also wrote a little about Fiona on October 7 (HERE).

And so that's why Kulk appreciated The Atlantic story about Fiona's love letter to Janet, the only true love of her life. Read the piece HERE.

Here's an excerpt from the pen-written letter:

"These are the choices we make, which define us. I will not be the woman who puts her career ahead of love & friendship. I am the woman who stays home, baking Tilapia for my dearest, oldest friend. And helps her be comfortable & comforted & safe & important."

Kulk loves that Fiona uses ampersands. Long ago during those newspaper days in Brattleboro, he wrote an ampersand-filled column in an ode to the Ampsersanders from Townshend.

Here is Fiona Apple's love letter to Janet ...

... & Fiona, if you buy one of Fiddlehead's cool pens, Kulk will give you another for free.

By the way, Kulk was wrong. The hand-turned pens began selling Saturday night when a woman from Bennington bought 2 of them -- and 2 beautiful glass pen holders -- for her daughter, a writer who graduated from Emerson College with an MFA in writing.

Michelle Cheever is a Pushcart Prize nominee. Read her piece in the Huffington Post HERE.

Here are 3 of Art Gallery Dude's favorite Fiona Apple songs ...

UPDATE: Here are Fiona's handwritten lyrics to "Every Single Night" ...