The Power of the Pencil

When I first read the disjointed, seemingly unrelated collection of anecdotes of Paul Astere’s “Why I Write”, I was confused. The memoires followed no chronology, lacked transitions and topic sentences, and not all of them were his own.

Then I read it again.

He tells the story of a friend whose auspicious connection with a Hepburn movie prompts her to go into labor each time she watched it. He reflects on the time his parental instinct to save his toddler daughter overcame the laws of physics. He recalls the time he watched a boy die. He mulls over his childhood encounter with his baseball idol that spurred a life long habit of always carrying a pencil.

These are snippets of moments and encounters that not only make Astere Astere, but reveal some insight into what inspires him to write as he writes. A glance behind the curtain, a peek into the frameworks of his mind – the seeming lack of self awareness in the piece is powerful, as if Astere was casually scribbling away in a diary rather than compiling an intentful piece of writing; it is not until the very last sentence of the baseball anecdote that these glances are at last tied together.

“As I like to tell my children, that’s how I became a writer”.

Out of all the “Why I Write” essays that we’ve encountered so far in the course, Astere’s stuck with me the most. I suppose it must have been his lack of analysis, his frank, factual recollections that painted such a stark image in my mind, almost as if the memories were my own. Which is strange because I’ve never seen anyone die, I don’t have a daughter, and I in fact actively avoid going to baseball games, but I could feel and relate to his sentiment all the same. Then in the last sentence, he wraps it all up very nicely for us, a sentence that grammatically could have been placed at any one of the preceding anecdotes, so in that same sense ties them all together.

If Astere hadn’t missed an opportunity for an autograph as an eight year old baseball fanatic, he might not have picked up the habit of carrying a pencil on him at all times, in which case he might not have taken the time to write any of the things that happened to him and others down. The power of the pencil is that it prompts its holder to write things down. And I for one am glad that Astere decided to carry one.

Leave a Reply