[...]the rush to fountain pens is not part of a wider handwriting boom. Sales of ballpoint pens are stable.
Somehow, the fountain pen became a luxury item and found a niche.
If a president signs a treaty, they don't do it with a Bic Cristal. If you give a loved one a pen, your thoughts might be more fountain than ballpoint.
And those who buy them for themselves are making a very self-conscious choice. They are saying: "I want to write in the old way."
This makes a lot of sense to me -- I've heard similar stories about the resurgence of vinyl sales even as CDs decline in the face of mp3s. There seems to be a meme growing as technology affords us more convenience, that some things should be done the hard way, should be earned, should be a meditation in the doing.
I've also heard a lot of complaints about this kind of thinking. I remember a magazine I read once, about tattoos, in which an older artist complained about the way young artists glamourized some old kind of transfer paper, which was apparently horribly unpleasant to work with.
Maybe it is just cheap nostalgia, and we're holding ourselves back for fear of the future. But I think it's probably more complicated than that. I know that I enjoy writing with a fountain pen from time to time, and Neil Gaiman gave a side interview in the BBC article about writing with them:
I found myself enjoying writing more slowly and liked the way I had to think through sentences differently. I discovered I loved the fact that handwriting forces you to do a second draft, rather than just tidying up and deleting bits on a computer. I also discovered I enjoy the tactile buzz of the ritual involved in filling the pens with ink.