Monday, December 14, 2020

Sean Malone (1970–2020)

I learned this morning that my friend Sean Malone died last week. Friend, yes, though we never met in person. I was hoping that would happen, in Los Angeles, on the other side of the pandemic.

Sean usually shows up in these pages as “Sean at Blackwing Pages” or “Sean at Contrapuntalism.” Sean loved pencils and brought a documentarian’s mind to the history of the Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602 and all things Faber (Faber-Castell and Eberhard Faber). And he lived a life as a brilliant musician. Take a look at his Wikipedia page, which covers his work as a performer and musicologist. His abilities are amply represented at YouTube. No pencils though.

When I taught The Grapes of Wrath, I would sometimes bring a Blackwing, a No. 2 3/8 Mongol, and a Blaisdell Calculator to class and pass them around for students to try out. Those were John Steinbeck’s favorite pencils, as documented . . . somewhere. I made a point of mentioning that the Calculator was a gift from a friend, a pencil aficionado and musician, Sean Malone. “From Cynic?!” a student asked. Worlds joining up, in a wonderful way.

“As documented . . . somewhere”: Sean would know where.

[The source for the brand names: Steinbeck’s “The Art of Fiction” (non-)interview in The Paris Review. Thanks, Pencil Talk.]

comments: 10

Stefan said...

That's sad news, Michael. I've always enjoyed Sean's contributions and although I can't remember his entry, I was delighted that he participated in the neologism contest that you sponsored a few years back. I will miss his voice here.

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for reminding me, Stefan. I’d forgotten about that. You chose one of Sean’s entries as the winner.

Fresca said...

I am so sorry to hear Sean Malone has died. I had clicked through from here onto his pencil site occasionally. Impressive.

My condolences to the loss of your friend.
Blog friends are friends.

Your friend, Fresca

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks, Fresca.

Your friend,

Michael

The Crow said...

I agree wholeheartedly with Fresca that blog friends are friends, and I'm sorry your friend Sean has died.

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks, Martha. Same closing words as above. :)

Stephen said...

The loss is immense and heartbreaking. I am amazed at the number of fields that Sean was able to master. Yet to anyone who crossed his path - he was also such a good person.

Thank you for the link. Seeing the post addendum, I have fixed the broken photo links at Pencil Talk. I like that yourself, Sean, and other online pencil people like Gunther all commented. I believe this modest post from almost a decade ago (2011) wound up creating a lot of interest in Steinbeck and his pencil preferences, though this has rarely been attributed. Thank you.

Michael Leddy said...

I hope that people who knew Sean’s work as a musician come to discover his vast knowledge of pencil history (if they don’t already know about it)..

It’s a drag when someone doesn’t give credit (as Sean knew too well with all things Blackwing). Always attribute!

cdcict said...

I had the pleasure of dealing with Sean as a collector. I think he bought pencils (and related items) from me starting in about 2001. Gosh: what he knew about the "why" of pencils was amazing. I was always impressed with his vast knowledge and love for these mundane (not so!) wooden sticks. Early on, he told me he was a musician and used pencils in composition; at that time he was buying soft-lead pencils from me (like vintage Blackwings) and vintage pencil extenders. Who knew then that he would become such a major force in the pencil world?
Sean, you will be greatly missed.
David (pencilwhipper/iq168)

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for sharing your memories of Sean here, David.